“The best is yet to come.” —William Shakespeare
As Illinois Institute of Technology celebrates its 125th anniversary, I am reminded of the many friends who have supported our university over the decades and all they have done to help us move forward. Through their philanthropy, they have honored those who have come before us—faculty and alumni whose accomplishments, both small and large, have made an impact and made us proud. And, in addition to celebrating our history, we are grateful for those whose gifts are paid forward—in anticipation for what is yet to come.
Our history is replete with examples of philanthropic support worth remembering:
- Two Chicago philanthropists can be called the fathers of IIT. The “Million Dollar Sermon” of Reverend Frank Gunsaulus inspired industrialist Philip Danforth Armour to found Armour Institute at about the same time that real estate investor Allen Cleveland Lewis funded what became known as Lewis Institute. The mergers of these two institutions in 1940 resulted in today’s IIT;
- In 1996 the legendary “Bobs,” Robert W. Galvin and Robert A. Pritzker (IE ’46), pledged a combined $120 million to IIT—the largest philanthropic gift in Chicago at that time and a declaration that the best days of our university were still ahead of us;
- Our trustees, alumni, and university friends who are participating in the current Fueling Innovation: The Campaign for IIT have thus far contributed $184,119,620 for endowed chairs, scholarships, and the revitalization of our physical infrastructure. Their support is making it possible for the next generation of students to think big and be bold; and
- Spurred on by a previous challenge gift from the IIT Alumni Association Board, students from the Class of 2014 raised more than $21,000 in the Student Gift Campaign for the purchase of 19 bicycle racks and two bicycle repair stations on IIT Main Campus. They remind us that philanthropic gifts come in all sizes and each gift adds to making the university a special place to learn, teach, and work.
Some philanthropic efforts, such as the students’ class gift, can result in tangible outcomes almost immediately. Great philanthropists, however, have always understood that the true impact of their gifts may not be truly realized for many years. And so with their financial generosity must come trust—and an expectation that their support will be well stewarded over time.
At the annual meeting of the IIT Board of Trustees in November 2014, I illustrated this point by noting the significant return on Bob Galvin’s and Bob Pritzker’s historic $120 million investment over the past 16 years in six key areas: enrollment (130% increase); degrees granted (67% increase); faculty growth (46% increase); major additions to infrastructure including a new campus center and residence hall; achievement of fiscal stability and a significant increase (130%) in a balanced operating budget; and research funding (110% increase).
I am also reminded that great philanthropy comes not with strings but with a deep pride that derives from giving back and paying forward. It is giving from the heart by people who care about this university—from friends and alumni who ask nothing more of us than to keep the university moving forward, true to its mission, and dedicated to providing an educational experience of uncompromised excellence.
Your support, and the support of those who came before you, is affirmation that what we do here at IIT is important and worthy of recognition. If our 125-year legacy of philanthropic support is indeed prologue, then our future looks bright indeed.
I look forward with great anticipation to see all that we can accomplish in the years to come.
John L. Anderson