At Commencement this spring, I told Illinois Institute of Technology’s newest alumni that as much as it’s true that we are living through unprecedented times, the truth is that all of us are always living through unprecedented times and what distinguishes us is our ability to meet unforeseen circumstances with optimism, courage, and grit. History is written day by day by those with the persistence to set a new precedent.
Armour Institute broke precedent in 1890 when it was founded with the purpose of liberating the collective power of difference to advance technology and progress for all. The founders of what would become Illinois Tech did not have a land grant from the state, or any other affiliations beyond the common cause of preparing students from all walks of life for professional careers.
Their persistence has resulted in more than a century of Illinois Tech alumni setting new precedents as designers, engineers, lawyers, inventors, social psychologists, entrepreneurs, artists, chemists, astronauts, executives, and many other professions working in dozens, if not hundreds, of industries all around the world. Illinois Tech alumni aren’t only responsible for creating unprecedented innovations like magnetic tape recording, the cell phone, and Amazon’s Alexa, but also for setting precedents closer to home like by being the first member of their family to obtain a college degree or the first to embark on a professional career path.
As Illinois Tech strives to meet the goal of empowering diverse learners with the skills to thrive in the future, we are in an unprecedented moment, with unprecedented support from alumni and friends. President Raj Echambadi wants to build on this momentum and set Illinois Tech on the path to unprecedented preeminence. We have the opportunity to double down on our founding purpose and to lift up young people from around the globe, including students in the university’ neighboring communities. Wherever students originate, I know each of them will fit in.
The culture we enjoyed as students was shaped by the alumni that came before us, the students, faculty, staff, friends, and neighbors in the community. As an alumna, I’m motivated to support Illinois Tech because I believe we can set a new precedent for reaching more students than ever before with the opportunity to come to the place where being different isn’t just OK, it’s an honored and respected ideal. You might be motivated by something different, and that’s exactly why I want your support. Visit iit.edu/alumni or email us at email@example.com to find out how you can power the difference for today’s students.
Sherrie Brown Littlejohn (M.S. CS ’82)