Former Illini Bob Noelke has been awarded the Varsity I Achievement Award.
Oct. 14, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - In line with tradition, the Varsity "I" Association will present its Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a past letterwinner for post-graduate accomplishments to Bob Noelke. Bob was a two-year starter and letterwinner as an offensive guard for the Illini football team from 1978-79, including being named offensive player of the game vs. Syracuse in 1978. Bob graduated with a degree in Finance from Illinois in 1980 and began a highly successful business career.
After beginning his career with Procter & Gamble, Bob moved into the investment management industry. In 1989, he joined Lord Abbett, one of the oldest money managers in the country, where he remains to this day. Bob is currently a Partner at Lord Abbett and is responsible for managing their Private Wealth Group. He also sits on the Board of Governors of the Money Management Institute and serves as the institute's Chairman of the Mutual Fund Committee.
Bob and his wife Diane live in Chatham, NJ and have four children, Jessica, Jack, Mike, and Mary Kate. Together, the Noelke's were charter members of the Loyalty Circle in the I FUND and have since established the Diane Pospisil Noelke Endowment Fund supporting a scholarship for a women's basketball player and the Noelke Family Endowment supporting academic services for Illini student-athletes.
Varsity "I" also will present the Merit Award to Willie Williams in recognition of his years of service to Fighting Illini student-athletes as an athletic staff member. Willie was a nine-time Big Ten event champion and a two-time national champion in track & field for the Illini. He helped lead his team to six straight conference titles and three top-six finishes at the NCAA meet before graduating with a degree in PE in 1955. Willie also claimed the title of "World's Fastest Man" by breaking Jesse Owens' 20-year-old record in the 100-meter dash.
Willie's personal achievements were unprecedented, but his greatest impact on Illinois athletics would not come until later when he would serve as assistant/associate head coach from 1982-2000 for the men's track & field program. Willie was more than a coach. He was a mentor and a friend for countless track & field and football student-athletes. He helped mold them into competitors in their sport and in life. His inventions and expertise created championship moments, but his teachings live on permanently in the successful lives of his student-athletes.
Willie and his wife, Barbara, live in Urbana, IL and have two daughters, Darla and Margot.
Along with the Achievement & Merit Awards, the Varsity "I" Association also inducts honorary members for their long-standing loyalty, service and contributions to Illinois athletics. The 2011 Honorary "I" recipients are Dixie & Evan Dickens, Sullivan IL; Bill Zerrusen, Dan Zerrusen, and Kurt Zerrusen, Teutopolis, IL.
The Varsity "I" Weekend events begin on Friday, October 14 at the Stone Creek Golf Club with tee times beginning at 11:00 AM. A celebration for the award winners will be held on Friday evening at 6:30 PM in the Colonnades Club at Memorial Stadium. The festivities continue Saturday, October 15 with the Varsity "I" Tailgate Tent Party at 12:30 AM, followed by the kick-off of the ILLINOIS vs. Ohio State football game at 2:30 PM. A special presentation for the 2011 Varsity "I" honorees during the game will wrap up the weekend.