All Hail to the Armours and the Lewises

By Marcia Faye
Armours & the Lewises

While Illinois Tech’s official seal has symbols representing the merger of Armour Institute, Lewis Institute, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, the university’s coat-of-arms honors the two families—the Armours and the Lewises—whose combined educational vision laid the cornerstone of today’s Illinois Tech. And while the seal is used as an identifying mark on diplomas, certificates, and special forms and publications, the coat-of-arms was created to recognize Illinois Tech and a select group of other institutions of higher learning in a uniquely grand fashion: as a nearly 3’ x 4’ wood carving that hangs in Cathedral Hall at the University Club of Chicago.

Heraldic Illinois Tech

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University Archivist Ralph Pugh talks about the IIT coat-of-arms hanging at the University Club of Chicago.

The coats-of-arms made their first appearance at the club in about 1928 or 1930; Illinois Tech’s coat-of-arms was added in 1965. A total of 20 coats-of-arms are displayed in Cathedral Hall today. According to the June 1965 edition of “IIT Reports,” Joseph C. Wolf, former custodian of local history and genealogy at the Newberry Library, researched and designed Illinois Tech’s heraldic emblem, which was then crafted by master woodcarver John Torell. The coat-of-arms has the following features and adheres to the custom of how marriages are depicted in heraldry:

  • The actual Armour (Scotland) family coat-of-arms (silver shield with blue chevron, three arms with raised forearms, and three five-pointed silver stars) appears on the left, occupying the left or “husband” side, since it is the older institute.
  • The actual Lewis (England) family coat-of-arms (black shield with ermine chevron and three silver spear heads) appears on the right, or “wife” side.
  • The Armour crest (right hand holding a squire’s helmet) appears at the top.
  • “IIT” appears in a ribbon at the bottom.

The colorful yet stately coats-of-arms complement the Gothic motif of Cathedral Hall, a dining room that is considered to be the club’s crown jewel.

“It’s a joy to see their expression of awe and wonder when guests and prospective members tour Cathedral Hall and see the crests and stained glass for the first time,” says Dale Lenig, director of membership for the University Club of Chicago.