Ebert's hometown remembers his legacy

URBANA -- He's a man who made a real impression on the film industry but here people are remembering the impact Roger Ebert had in his own hometown. He died Thursday afternoon at a rehabilitation center in Chicago. He was 70 years old.

People all over Champaign-Urbana are remembering him, especially at his Alma Mater, the UI. Anytime Roger Ebert visited, it was always a "thumbs up," usually at Ebertfest, his annual film festival.

"Roger is a very big part of our college family, as well as this university. He was always proud of getting a degree from here," says Jan Slater.

However, it was at a student-run newspaper that he started his career as a journalist.

"We are really shocked that this happened. He meant a lot to us at the Daily Illini," says Darshan Patel.

50 years ago, Ebert was the paper's editor-in-chief; a position Patel's only had for a few weeks.

"From people I've talked to, his year as an editor-in-chief was one of his biggest accomplishments even after he won the Pulitzer Prize, even after he did so many things," says Patel.

Even being a world-renowned film critic didn't stop him from giving back. He did many things to help the paper, like donating money to keep it afloat.

"His willingness to continue to help us was really heartwarming for us because we know how much this means to him," says Patel.

The College of Media and Journalism Department also meant a lot to him. Jan Slater is the Dean and helps organize Ebertfest.

"He's so much larger than life. It was such a thrill to be in his presence because you've read him. I'm a constant reader of him and he's just such a great journalist," says Slater.

She adds, more than anything, journalism and film were his passions. That's why the place he started will make sure those legacies live on.

"He also had a vision for a program in film studies, and that's part of the donation that he's made to the college and we're committed to bringing that. We miss him already," says Slater.

People around the country continue to remember Ebert. His name is trending on Twitter. Governor Pat Quinn and even President Obama tweeted saying "Movies won't be the same without you Roger."

Ebert's wife, Chaz, has been by his side throughout his battle with cancer. She had this to say:

    I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger, my husband,
    my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over
    20-years. We were getting ready to go home today for hospice
    care, when he looked at us, smiled and passed away. No
    struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition.

Organizers say Ebertfest will still go on. It's April 17 - 21.

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