Campus Recreation and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, in partnership with the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism, proudly established the Jesse “Tony” Clements Scholarship to recognize his extraordinary personal contributions and professional accomplishments; to perpetuate the impact of his unyielding commitment to supportive relationships; and to honor his unique legacy at the University of Illinois, in Champaign Urbana, and around the globe.

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About Tony

At the age of 18, Tony Clements relocated to Champaign to attend the University of Illinois, and earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degrees in Recreation, Sport, and Tourism.  He was a talented athlete who participated on the U of I basketball team during his freshmen year.  Then, interestingly, he transitioned to become a defensive player on the Illinois football team during his remaining college years.

Tony joined the Division of Campus Recreation as a graduate student and he remained for 38 years. In 1979, he was named director at the age of 30, one of the first black men to hold that position at a major university in the United States.  Two of his most visible achievements include the creation of the Campus Recreation Center-East (CRCE) and the $50 million expansion and renovation of the Intramural Physical Education Building (known as IMPE) transforming the facility into the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), one of the most state-of-the-art campus recreation complexes in the country.

In 2002, Tony won the Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence Award for his exceptional leadership on behalf of the UI.  In 2003, Tony was named the recipient of the Monsignor Edward J. Duncan Service Award which is presented annually to a U of I “football letterman” who has displayed exemplary dedication to his community, state and country. As a recipient, he joined the ranks of former winners such as Tim McCarthy, Tony Eason, and Dick Butkus.

Many remember Tony Clements as the official scorekeeper for the Illini Basketball Team for 30 years.  In recognition and honor of this extraordinary dedication, he was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a Friend of Basketball in May 2017.

Tony was active in the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), having served as president of that organization in 1988-89. He was presented the association’s most prestigious recognition, the NIRSA Honor Award, in 1996.

Upon his retirement from the University of Illinois, Tony was appointed as a board member of the United Way of Champaign County (UWCC). During his time with the United Way, he served as the co-chair of the Annual Campaign, co-chair of the Pillar Committee and co-chair of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a member of the executive committee, and in 2012, served as the interim CEO for the United Way of Champaign County.  Tony was an honored recipient of the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award from the National Philanthropy Association. He was also chosen to join the board of the Marajen Stevick Foundation, a non-profit organization that distributes grants through the East Central Illinois Community Foundation and the University of Illinois Foundation.

Tony was well known as a motivational speaker, local radio personality, and a Champaign Urbana legend through one of his favorite pastimes—-performing standup comedy. He produced his own annual comedy show, The Clements Comedy Cafe, from 1990 through 2014. Throughout 25 years, the Comedy Cafe supported a number of social service organizations, including the East Central Illinois Foodbank, the C-U Schools Foundation and the Champaign Parks Foundation.  Tony also performed with comedian Sinbad, emceed shows for Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, and had been the opening act for Jerry Butler and Ray Charles. In 1998, Tony was asked to be the warm-up act when President Clinton and Vice President Gore visited the University of Illinois.

It is almost impossible to convey the personal impact that Tony had on, literally, thousands of students and staff as a mentor, advocate, and steadfast friend throughout his 30+ years at ILLINOIS.  A friend and mentee of Clements, Janet Kroencke, states “For many years, Tony shared his inherent ability to see the promise and possibility in Students when they may not have seen that in themselves. Simply put, Tony’s influence on students has made this world a better place by developing strong professionals and leaders through his mentorship. This award will continue providing our future leaders the support necessary to succeed, and Tony’s influence and generosity will remain relevant beyond his lifetime.”

Honor Tony and Provide Scholarships to Deserving Students

We ask that you that you help us to honor Tony’s exceptional leadership and extraordinary lifelong commitment to this community by making a convenient, secure online donation to his scholarship fund and helping us reach the minimum endowment level of $25,000.

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Direct questions to Student Affairs Advancement at (217) 244-8060 or studentaffairsadvancement@illinois.edu.

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