Men of Steel Leave Legacy at IIT

Men of Steel Leave Legacy at IIT
Charles W. Finkl

The Finkl Familys’ Continued Commitment to IIT

Charles W. “Chuck” Finkl, the late chairman and CEO of A. Finkl & Sons Co. a steel forging company in Chicago, was a steadfast supporter of his alma mater, Illinois Institute of Technology. Chuck proved to be one of IIT’s most generous and active supporters both financially and through his investment of time. Lew Collens, president of IIT, explains the Finkl/IIT friendship: IIT is indeed fortunate to have numbered among its alumni and friends such industry leaders as Chuck and his father Bill Finkl. A. Finkl & Sons has looked to IIT as a source of engineering talent for much of this century, and the Finkl family has been a great friend and benefactor of IIT over the same period.

In 1943, Chuck earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from IIT and in 1995 was awarded IIT’s highest academic honor, the honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters and Science for a lifetime of contributions to industry and education. He passed away in November 2002.

The IIT Finkl Family Tradition: William F. Finkl

The Finkl family has played an active role in IIT history since the early 1900’s, when Chuck’s father William F. Finkl forged the family’s first link with the university as a student. During the course of his life, William Finkl gave more than $2.5 million to IIT, nearly half of which was used to create the William F. Finkl Interactive Instructional Television Network, (IIT/V), which provided technological education courses and degree programs to thousands of IIT students and employed professionals.

William’s 1976 gift launched IIT into the future. IIT/V was an important component of the Campaign for the Future of IIT, helping IIT become a dominant force in distance learning. In fact, IIT recently celebrated 25 years of distance learning in the Chicago region with the largest Chicago-area microwave delivery system. Today, IIT/V is part of IIT Online Technical Services, which is now in its 5th year of Internet programming using streaming-video and audio with synchronized slides to reach students around the globe.

Louise Hewitt, director of IIT Online Technical Services, explains the significance of IIT/V: William Finkl’s charitable contribution allowed IIT to be the first in the Chicago area to wire the city to deliver advanced courses and we’re proud of that fact. We broadcast about 110 live courses each semester and 30 each summer to hundreds of professionals right at their job sites. IIT Online and IIT/V play significant roles in attracting and retaining engineers and scientists as well as technology businesses in the Chicago area.

Other family alumni include Chuck’s brother, Anthony Finkl, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1941, and William’s grandsons, David Marlett and Jonathon Finkl, both 1983 recipients of full Presidential Scholarships to IIT.

For Chuck, the IIT/Finkl partnership was mutually beneficial. He believed in the value of an IIT education, and employed many IIT-trained engineers. IIT students were a true concern of Chuck's, and he often requested recent job placement statistics and participated in conversation events with students to discuss various aspects of professional life.

Throughout Chuck’s life he gave millions of dollars to help IIT maintain its high level of excellence, and actively supported IIT by donating his time to many IIT affiliations. Philip Nash, professor of materials engineering, explains the role Chuck played: Chuck enabled the Center to interact with the manufacturing industry by recruiting new company members and support. He helped IIT forge relationships with many other industry leaders. Chuck’s steadfast support allowed the Center to grow and flourish.

Men of Steel Leave Legacy at IIT
A. Finkl & Sons Company

The Legacy Lives On

In November 2002 at age 82, Charles W. Finkl passed away. In the wake of Chuck’s death, Bruce Liimatainen, another alumnus of IIT, was named chairman and CEO of A. Finkl & Sons Company. Bruce is a 1974 mechanical engineering graduate, and, in 2002, was appointed to IIT’s executive committee of the board of directors. He is also a member of the board of overseers at IIT’s Armour Engineering College, and like Chuck, an enthusiastic supporter of the university. In 1994, for example, he presented the Liimatainen Lab Fund in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering to the school.

Thanks to the visionary leadership and ongoing support through the years, the Finkl family has bestowed IIT with a series of long-lasting friendships. Chuck once summed up his commitment to IIT, “My gift to the university is an investment in tomorrow’s professionals, as well as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for the quality education I received at IIT.”

Chuck Finkl Biography File

  • Chuck is the son of William F. Finkl, who was a 1917 chemical engineering graduate. Chuck followed in his father’s footsteps by attending IIT, joining the family business and embracing the family interest in his alma mater.
  • Graduated in 1943 from IIT’s wartime accelerated three-year program with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He went on to become a trustee in the 1970’s and was elected to a lifetime trusteeship in 1993. He was considered a chief supporter of IIT’s development and expansion and played a key role in promoting a strong partnership between IIT and the city of Chicago.
  • Guided A. Finkl & Sons Company as chairman and CEO, developing several patents related to vacuum degassing molten steel. In June 1998, the Electric Metal Makers Guild named Chuck Finkl as the recipient of the Guild’s twelfth annual Billy Wallis Award for inventing ladle metallurgy, a method of treating steel under vacuum so that the final product is cleaner and stronger, and fewer materials are wasted. His vacuum arc degasser, patented in 1987 and copied throughout the world, solved a major problem for steelmakers who had long struggled with the problem of trapped gases in steel. Under Chuck’s leadership, the company expanded broadly into international markets, and is now represented in every major market in the world.
  • During the course of his life, Chuck gave more than $2 million to help IIT maintain its high level of excellence, and was involved with many IIT affiliations. 1968: member of the Alumni Association General Reunion Committee. 1974: a trustee of the IIT board of directors and volunteer corporate solicitor in 1975. 1980s: involved in the Leadership Conference/Hall of Fame and served as chairmen of the IIT Research Institute Board of Governors. 1990s: founding member of the Thermal Processing Technology Center.
  • As one of the first five corporate members to support the Thermal Processing Technology Center, Chuck helped build a connection between IIT and the manufacturing industry. Phillip Nash, professor of materials engineering, explains the role Chuck played, “Chuck enabled the Center to interact with the manufacturing industry by recruiting new company members and support. He helped IIT forge relationships with many other industry leaders. Chuck’s steadfast support allowed the Center to grow and flourish.”
  • Several scholarships from the Finkl family: Charles and Lee Finkl Chair in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering; the Lee & C.W. Finkl Camras Scholarship Fund; the Charles W. Finkl Heald Scholarship Fund; the Charles & Lee Finkl Faculty Endowment Fund.
  • A Scanning Electron Microscopy Laboratory and a Thermal Processing Technology Laboratory, both dedicated in May 2001, were donated through the Charles W. Finkl Foundation and A. Finkl & Sons Company. “The equipment and the labs Chuck donated allow the Materials department to have a lab-intensive program. You cannot walk into a single lab that he didn’t impact. Through Finkl’s numerous donations, he assisted and shaped the direction of metallurgical research here at IIT,” stated John Kallend, professor of materials and engineering and physics.
  • “Every major piece of equipment in the Materials Engineering department was funded by Chuck. He allowed IIT to be the first university to have the latest model of the thermal mechanical simulation machine. The Thermal Processing Technology Lab Chuck and A. Finkl & Sons donated enabled us to move to the forefront of thermal processing research,” explained Phillip Nash, professor of materials engineering.