John Milton Gregory was elected the first Regent, which was akin to President, of the Illinois Industrial University by the first Board of Trustees. Gregory was an important figure in shaping the future of the University, now known as the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, through his leadership. Three of the current Board of Trustees members who were former students of Gregory's eloquently spoke of him at a meeting shortly after his death:
"He was endowed in liberal measure with the qualities which were needed to prepare the plans and effect the organization of such an institution. His scholarship, his intellectual balance, his familiarity with public questions, his courage in the face of much opposition, and his skill in debate, laid the foundations for a University... [which] has been continually growing stronger and nobler since he ceased to be so potent in guiding its affairs" (Board of Trustees 1901).
Upon his death in Washington D.C. in 1898 his body was carried back to the University and laid to rest in a vault at Mt. Hope cemetery. However, Dr. Gregory had "expressed that his remains might have burial within the grounds of the University," and at the November 12th, 1898 meeting of the Board of Trustees they chose a permanent resting spot for the former Regent, "south of the Library Building [Altgeld Hall], near a point 100 feet south of the drive in a line with John street, and midway between Wright street and the west line of University Hall" (Leetaru) Gregory was laid to rest there but no memorial marker was set up at that time.
As early as April 1905, it was suggested in a letter from C.H. Blackall to Professor N.C. Ricker that a memorial should be held for Dr. Gregory. However, after much correspondence the Board of Trustees did not formally address a memorial until October 8, 1912. It was decided that the University would begin collecting funds for a building to be erected in his name and that his grave would be marked "in some simple and appropriate way" (Board of Trustees 1912). The marker for Gregory's grave is a granite boulder that was pulled from the ground during the excavation for Lincoln Hall. James White, Professor of Architecture, suggested it be used as the marker and accompanied with a bronze tablet. This arrangement was unanimously agreed upon.
On May 15, 1914, the memorial proceedings were held and the boulder was placed. However, it was not until June 1939 that the cornerstone for Gregory Hall was laid by Regent Gregory's son, Alfred Gregory. Today the building is used primarily for classes in Journalism, Communication, and Media studies.