Into the Vault - SURS 1941-2016

Into the Vault - SURS 1941-2016

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
January 27, 2016
75th Anniversary Logo


SURS Receives Legislative Honors on 75th Anniversary





    • The University Retirement System of Illinois was initially created as a result of a four-year study, primarily for the University of Illinois employees, though it did benefit a few other state educational and scientific agencies. (The name of the System was changed on March 18, 1963, to State Universities Retirement System.)
    • On July 21, Gov. Dwight H. Green approved the law governing the System.
    • On Sept. 1, the System opened its doors in room 305 of the University of Illinois Administration Building
    • Orville M. Karraker was elected the first president of the System’s board of trustees. The board had five members including three members from the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois – chosen by that board, one member of the Teachers College Board – chosen by that board, and the State Director of Registration and Education.
    • There were 11 employers in 1941. Today there are 61.
    • The original 11 employers were:
      • University of Illinois
      • Normal School Board
      • Illinois State Normal University
      • Northern Illinois State Teachers’ College
      • Southern Illinois State Normal University
      • Eastern Illinois State Teachers’ College
      • Western Illinois StateTeachers' College
      • State Geological Survey
      • State Natural History Survey
      • State Water Survey
      • The Board of Trustees of the University Retirement System
    • Ruth Ellen Kunkel was the System’s first senior administrator. She served until her death in 1952.



    • The System had 3,760 participants and three staff members.
    • The average annual salary of a participant was $2,217.
    • Employee contributions for the first year totaled $284,564.
    • Employer contributions for the first year totaled $124,326.
    • The average rate of return on investments during the first year of operation was 2.49 percent.
    • The first benefit check for $53.25 was issued on Sept. 1 to Mary E. Beedle, a retiree of the University of Illinois.
First Annual Report



  • The System expanded to rooms 304 and 305 of the U of I Administration Building.
  • A legislative amendment passed to require that all permanent and continuous employees participate regardless of age. Prior to that, participation had been optional for employees under 30.
  • The maximum annuity was 60 percent of final earnings up to $4,000 per year.



  • The System moved to 1210 W. Oregon, an old two-story house in Urbana. Total space was 1,300 sq. feet plus 300 sq. feet in the basement that resembled a coal bin.



  • SURS employee count grew to 12.



  • The Survivor’s Insurance Program was adopted.



  • The University Retirement System of Illinois changed its name to State Universities Retirement System (SURS).
  • SURS moved to 807 Lincoln Ave. in Urbana, the Eisner Grocery building.



    • SURS moved to 50 Gerty Drive in Champaign. Total space was 10,000 sq. feet. Total employees had grown to 30.


  • The State Universities Annuitants’ Association (SUAA) was founded. SUAA works closely with SURS retirees on legislative and policy issues.



  • SURS had 35,544 participants



  • SURS purchased its first computer, the IBM 4331 Central Processing Unit (CPU) with 1 megabyte of memory. Having no Information Services (IS) staff, SURS contracted with a local consulting firm, Beranek and Associates, to manage and staff the IS department. By the close of 1979, the department was staffed with two full-time people. Data entry was done on cards, 8 ½ inch diskettes, or through dumb terminals.
  • SURS staff conducted the first annual training seminar.
  • The Automatic Annual Increase for annuitants increased from two percent to three percent. The change was made retroactive to each annuitant whose employee status terminated after 8-14-69.



    • SURS distributed the first issue of Newsnotes, the annuitant’s newsletter.

Old SURS Newsletters

SURS received its first Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada. We have received the award every year since.



  • The first electronic fund transfer was made in July.
  • Legislative amendment passed requiring immediate participation by newly-hired employees. The three-year option was dropped.
  • The first issue of The Participant, the member’s newsletter, was released.



    • SURS introduced BenefitLine, a toll-free, 24-hour hotline for benefit information. There were no live operators. It was automated.

Benefit Line

  • In June, the first piece of hardware for a new technical system that would have a major impact on SURS arrived. It was an AS/400 model B60. In August, the second piece arrived, the first infamous Juke Box. Staff members were issued PCs. The first model installed was an IBM 386SX Model 65. It had a speed of 16MHZ. The IS Department grew to a staff of eight full-time employees.



    • SURS celebrated 50 years of service

50 Years Cover

  • First edition of The Advocate member newsletter was published
  • Dennis D. Spice Became the System’s fourth executive director.
  • SURS broke ground on a new office building at 1901 Fox Drive in Champaign.
breaking ground



  • SURS completed and moved into our current building at 1901 Fox Drive in Champaign. The building is 37,000 sq. feet and housed approximately 75 employees.
old artist rendering and current building



  • SURS established an online presence with our first website.



  • The defined benefit Portable Plan and the defined contribution Self-Managed Plan were introduced. Members were able to choose from one of three retirement program options.



  • Member Access became available on the SURS website.
  • SURS employed 106 staff members
  • The SURS Call Center was created with 10 member service representatives (MSRs) responding to members' calls. Today we have 16 MSRs.



  • Public Act 96-0889 was signed into law on April 14, creating a second tier of SURS benefits for participants hired on or after January 1, 2011.



    • SURS opened a satellite office in Naperville at the Northern Illinois University Outreach Center.
naperville office

  • SURS communications department was created.
  • Public Act 97-0609 was signed into law on August 26, suspending the pensions of any retired member who returns to work as an independent contractor with the same employers from which he or she retired.
  • Public Act 97-0695 was signed into law on June 12, reforming state retiree health insurance. Several lawsuits were filed challenging the constitutionality of the law. Kanerva vs Weems was the consolidated case.



    • SURS added a language interpreter service through the call center to provide access to over 200 language operators.
    • The counseling department began holding monthly educational webinars for participants.
    • SURS redesigned its website and added new user-friendly components
2013 website

  • Public Act 98-0599 was signed into law on December 5, making comprehensive changes to the plan design. Lawsuits were immediately filed and the pension reform law begins its way through the courts.
  • A new Life Events section was added to SURS website.



    • SURS began educating members on the ramifications of the pension reform law. From January to May SURS:
      • Conducted 78 campus visits with an estimated attendance of 9,100
      • Provided 3,800 one-to-one counseling sessions
      • Provided 1,068 written estimates
      • Provided 38 group counseling sessions reaching 700 members
      • Conducted six webinars with 2,795 members attending
      • Provided eight additional website enhancements, including an enhanced online estimator, recorded webinar video, and Frequently Asked Questions reference sheet
      • Conducted six employer seminars throughout the state reaching 220 employer representatives

    • On May 14, the Illinois Circuit Court granted a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction stopping the implementation of Public Act 98-0599. SURS continued administering contributions and benefits as the law existed prior to the amendment of Public Act 98-0599.
    • On November 21, the Circuit Court Judge entered a final declaratory judgment that Public Act 98-0599 is unconstitutional and void in its entirety. The case moves to the Illinois Supreme Court.
    • On August 28, the Sangamon County Circuit Court ordered the state to stop deducting the monthly percentage-of-annuity health insurance premiums (Public Act 97-0695) from retiree and survivor annuities. The decision further required the refunding of insurance premiums by June 15, 2015.
    • SURS launched its Facebook page
facebook screen



    • W. Bryan Lewis (left) was hired as the new executive director. Andrew Matthews was hired as the chief operating officer.
Bryan Lewis and Andrew Matthews

  • On May 8, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional the state pension law “ Public Act 98-0599.
  • SURS received approximately $23.4 million dollars from the state to repay health insurance premiums (Public Act 97-0695) that were deducted from annuitants' checks from July 1, 2013, through September 1, 2014. The process required SURS staff to:
    • Review and update 3,000 addresses in preparation for the OP-Out Notice mailing
    • Process over 34,000 annuitant insurance refunds
    • Issue letters to approximately 2,000 deceased members’ beneficiaries
  • A new Procurement/Business page was added to SURS website.
  • Market assets were $19.2 billion
  • Average monthly retirement annuity was $3,172



    • SURS celebrates 75 years of service
    • New logo and website homepage design are introduced
2016 Site

    • All SURS materials are redesigned using the new logo
2016 Advocate