Jim Albrecht (FE ’53, M.S. ’55)

Building the Next Era of Global Innovation

By Brianne Meyer

Since its founding, Illinois Tech has been creating a community of thinkers who think differently and doers who do differently, bringing together learners from different cultures with unique perspectives and experiences to innovate in ways that were never thought possible. Fortunately, generous donors to the university are eager to step up and provide meaningful support to make that possibility a reality at Illinois Tech. 

Through his thoughtful philanthropy, Jim Albrecht (FE ’53, M.S. ’55) has remained committed to the idea of leaning into and leveraging differences to positively impact the university community and society as a whole.

“I think that Illinois Tech does a great job at embracing a multidisciplinary approach to solve some of the most pressing challenges that our world faces today. There are very few problems on this planet that will be solved by one person,” says Albrecht. 

To further support this type of inclusive innovation, Albrecht sponsored the travel expenses for Illinois Tech’s team in the XPRIZE Rainforest competition. This global five-year, $10 million contest is designed to convene experts across various backgrounds and disciplines to enhance our understanding of tropical rainforest ecosystems around the world. 

Along with Illinois Tech Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Matthew Spenko and his Ph.D. student, six undergraduate students were chosen to represent the university at the semifinal competition in Singapore in July 2023. Composed of members from Illinois Tech, Purdue University, Natural State, and the Morton Arboretum, the Welcome to the Jungle team is now one of six teams advancing to the finals, which will be held in 2024. 

“This competition exhibits the power of the collective genius,” says Albrecht. “Young people don’t necessarily know all that they are capable of yet, which is why engineers, designers, scientists, and leaders from various disciplines must work together and use their singular skills and knowledge to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. I do everything that I can to support innovation across the university and to provide opportunities that foster an environment in which students can learn and grow together.”

As demonstrated by this global competition, real impact happens through the powerful connections that are forged from a shared mission—an idea that builds upon Illinois Tech’s founding purpose.

“Illinois Tech is committed to harnessing the power of collective difference to advance innovation for Chicago and communities around the world,” says Illinois Tech Interim Vice President for Advancement Beth Campbell. “The thoughtful leadership and generous investments from the Illinois Tech community open the door for unmatched experiential learning opportunities that will ignite real change. Together, we are able to embrace and amplify the true potential of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni and to create the next era of innovation.”

Albrecht spent his entire career in the food industry, working for big-name brands such as Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and McCormick. He has always been a firm believer in a multifunctional approach to solving business problems, which is what kickstarted his philanthropic journey at Illinois Tech and motivated him to invest in the university’s Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program.

Albrecht is proud of his Illinois Tech education and all that it has allowed him to accomplish in his career, and now dedicates his philanthropic efforts to supporting and mentoring future generations of leaders. He believes that the future will be what Illinois Tech has always been: a collaboration of those who have inventive minds, empathetic hearts, and ingenious spirits that innovate because of their unique and powerful differences.

“The students at Illinois Tech are our future. I am proud to give back to my alma mater and support the next generation of difference makers,” adds Albrecht.