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Alma Mater returns

Latest: 6:03 pm, 4/9/14, Wednesday URBANA -- She's baaack. Alma Mater officially returned to campus Wednesday after being gone for almost two years.
Latest: 6:03 pm, 4/9/14, Wednesday
URBANA -- She's baaack. Alma Mater officially returned to campus Wednesday after being gone for almost two years. She was welcomed with arms wide open. WCIA-3's Erica Quednau was there to greet her.

Thousands spent their morning waiting to see her. Many showed up to Alma Mater Plaza to catch the first glimpse of her in person. But for those who couldn't make it, a live stream was put on the web. At one point, more than 9,000 people were watching it, proving just how much she was missed.

Life at UI just hasn't been the same for the past 600 days, ever since Alma's been gone.

"It's nice to see the Alma Mater coming back home."

"I just want to see it at first glance."

A glance at Alma's makeover, new bolts, new brackets and a new color.

"She looks really good."

"I liked the green better, you know. It just, it's more homey, it's what I know."

"I think it's awesome. It's a lot prettier then I've seen in the pictures."

"I dont know. It's different. It's not the same, but new is not always bad, right?"

Like it or not, it's work that needed to be done.

"Originally we were just going to clean the surface, polyeurathane and wax, but we found there are major problems inside and that added about a year of work," says Andrzej Dajnowaski, the man behind Alma's new look. "We selected material, which is silicon bronze, very similar to what the sculpture is made of and there is going to be no corrosion. So that's the most important thing we've done with the entire project. Structure and stability is now there."

And with the proper upkeep, it's work that could last forever.

"The oldest artifacts made of bronze are about 3,000 years old. If the sculpture is just washed and waxed every year, it will look like this forever," Dajnowaski said.

Which means we may never have to say good-bye again.

"It's pretty awesome they're bringing her back for graduation. I'm graduating this year, so it's exciting."

"I think it's certainly an icon for the school, especially since the chief has left. It's something that we all can kind of use as our rally point."

"I'm just very grateful that we were able to work on this. This is one of those projects that will stay with me forever."

So many people took pictures of all the action. Of course, I had to do the same. Here's the picture I got to take with Alma when she returned. How different compared to my last picture with her on my graduation day.
Latest: 4:12 pm, 4/9/14, Wednesday
URBANA -- A familiar face is back on campus. Alma Mater is officially home and on her pedestal.

It's been a long wait for her return. A lot of people say the past 600 days without her have been difficult, but now that she's back, campus feels "normal" again.

Dozens of students, alumni and people from the community came out for her return Wednesday. Many wanted to catch their first glimpse of her, others anxiously waiting to see her makeover in person.

That's because all the work she had done, took much longer than conservationists originally planned. On top of her new coloring, hundreds of bolts and brackets which were rusting were replaced.

In the end, they say the wait will have been worth it. The silicon bronze used for Alma's coloring can reportedly last 3,000 years with the proper maintenance. So, school officials say, every year or two, Alma will get a power wash and hot wax.
Update: 4:40 pm, 4/8/14, Tuesday
URBANA -- Students at UI are looking forward to a big return Wednesday. Alma Mater will be put back on her throne about 10 am.

School officials say it will take 2 - 4 hours to put her back together. You can watch the event from bleachers which will be set up at Green and Wright streets. If you can't make it there, you can watch online.

For more information, click here.
Original: 11:45 pm, 3/21/14, Friday
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- The Alma Mater is ready to show off her new look. April 9 is the date that's set for the stature to return to her pedestal at the corner of Green and Wright. Gone is the greenish-blue tint. She's back to her original bronze and is sporting 1,000 new bolts. The project cost about $350,000.
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