Gene Vance '47


CHAMPAIGN – Ellis Eugene (Gene) Vance, 88, of Champaign, passed away at 2:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 16, 2012) at his home in Champaign.

Mr. Vance was born Feb. 25, 1923, in Clinton, the son of Ellis Wilson and Barbara Armstrong Vance. He married Grace Hoberg Vance on Aug. 7, 1943, at Camp Wolters, Texas. She preceded him in death on Aug. 10, 1980.

He married Janann Duffy Hagan on Aug. 28, 1981. She survives.

Also surviving are two sons, Jon (Sara) Vance of Solana Beach, Calif.; James (Tricia) Vance of Cordova, Tenn.; two daughters, Sue (Roger) Peterson of Champaign and Martha (Tom) Tanner of Loveland, Ohio; three stepchildren, Michael Hagan of Savoy; Kelly (Rick) Willis of Waverly, Iowa, and Shannon Hagan of San Diego, Calif.; seven grandchildren, Jennifer (Peter) Ballentyne of Hackensack, N.J.; Jonathan (Meredith) Vance of San Diego, Calif., Kathryn (Jason) Whalen of Champaign, Scott (Rachel) Tanner of Hoover, Ala., Emily Grady of Champaign, Sarah and Andrew Tanner of Loveland, Ohio; three step-grandchildren, Tyler, Eric and Ryan Willis of Waverly, Iowa; and five great-grandsons.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

He graduated from Clinton High School in 1940 and from the University of Illinois in 1947, earning a B.S. degree in Physical Education and a master's degree in Education in 1955. He was a member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity.

Gene was a member of one of college basketball's greatest teams, the Illinois' "Whiz Kids" of 1941-42 and 1942-43. This team won back-to-back Big Ten Conference Championships. The team was broken up on March 1, 1943, when all five starters headed to active duty for service in World War II. He served three years in the U.S. Army, including 16 months in Europe and earned two bronze stars during his military career.

Following his career at Illinois, he continued to play in the National Basketball Association from 1947-49 with the Chicago Stags (now the Chicago Bulls.) When that league folded into the NBA, he played for the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and the Milwaukee Hawks from 1949-1951. During this period, in the off season, he worked for Wilson Sporting Goods Company in Chicago and as a salesman for Bailey and Himes Sporting Goods in Champaign. He was recalled to military service in January 1951. He served one year in Korea.

After four years of coaching basketball at LaSalle-Peru High School, he and his family returned to Champaign when he rejoined his alma mater to serve as Field Director of the University of Illinois Alumni Association for four years prior to his being named executive director from 1956-1967. He served as Illinois' director of athletics from 1967-1972, and as senior development officer at the University of Illinois Foundation until his retirement in 2000.