Highlights from Alan W. Cramb’s Tenure as President
Successfully led the university through the pandemic, ensuring that all students could graduate on time
Construction and opening of the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship, the first academic building on campus since the 1970s
The renovation and renaming of the Robert A. Pritzker Science Center, the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center, and George J. Kacek Hall, plus the current renovation of Cunningham Hall, significant investments in both student life and educational priorities
The purchase of both IIT Tower and Jeanne and John Rowe Village
The refinancing and reduction of university debt while increasing liquidity, leading to a very positive financial future for the university and improved ratings from Moody’s
The initiation of the campaign Power the Difference: Our Campaign for Illinois Tech and raising more than $350 million while president
The launch of the Ocient Computational Center
Partnership with MCM Development Group (Armour Institute, LLC) to secure the future of Main Building
The implementation and renewal of Illinois Tech’s five-year strategic plan
The debut of the first undergraduate degree program in artificial intelligence in the Midwest
The launch of the College of Computing
Co-chair of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, a national organization focused on issues of our undocumented and international students
The formation of the Staff Advisory Council and the Student Advisory Council, to create a more direct connection between staff, students, and the president
The transition of university sports participation to NCAA Division III and subsequently joining the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference
n his first interview for the winter 2009 issue of Illinois Tech Magazine, Alan W. Cramb, then the new Illinois Institute of Technology provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, shared his vision for adding to student potentiality.
“A combination of undergraduate depth with professional-level sophistication can result in a new type of graduate—one that is a technical leader who is culturally and globally sophisticated, and a great communicator with a significant knowledge of a broad spectrum of issues, from law to design,” he said.
Alan would go on to succeed John L. Anderson as Illinois Tech’s ninth president, and this summer, he will retire from his position as the university’s top academic administrator. Even as he remains on the faculty of Armour College of Engineering, Alan will continue to provide students with opportunities to grow and to excel within Chicago’s only tech-focused university.
University Regent Bud Wendorf (ME ’71), chairman of the Illinois Tech Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2018, led the assessment team that considered Alan’s advancement to the role of president in 2015. Bud says that “there was such a groundswell of support for him moving into that slot from his successes as provost”—successes that included Alan’s constant emphasis on the student body.
“What struck me was that a president of a university has a lot of constituencies to deal with. But I was awestruck that no matter what the issues, Alan always had a global view of what had to be done—and he was always focused on students,” says Bud. “Alan always remained true to being an educator and what had to be done to make the students successful.”
While Bud stresses that Alan is “all business” when it comes to university matters, he has also been a fun and personable pal. In a phone call from his home in Arizona, Bud recalls the time that Alan visited him there for a golf charity fundraiser. As they approached the 15th green, a bobcat appeared, stalking some rabbits.
It was kind of funny because neither Alan nor I are really great golfers, so that was a big story for us to talk about—instead of discussing our birdies, we were discussing the bobcat!” says Bud, who also shares a passion for Formula One racing with Alan. Bud says that his own personal allegiance to the university runs deep. But Alan, who emigrated from Scotland to enter into the Ph.D. in materials science program at the University of Pennsylvania, follows suit.
“The university is my alma mater, but, for him, well, he adopted us. He really thinks the world of Illinois Tech; he lives and breathes it,” says Bud. “It was such a pleasure working with him because he takes the university seriously, and he did so many great things to try to make it better. From the perspective of the trustees, he is, and always has been, highly respected for the effort he has put forth. He is truly a quality person.”
“It’s rare in tertiary institutions for the provost to be appointed as president from the same institution. In Alan’s case at Illinois Tech, it was the easy decision for the board. Alan’s performance as provost validates his ability to make difficult and much-needed decisions in a cordial, appropriate, and collegial manner. The trustees knew he earned the respect of faculty, staff, and the student body. His ability to work closely with all stakeholders, including President Anderson and the trustees, was equally well received by alumni, donors, and community leaders. When you marry this mutual trust and respect to his proactive/visionary strategy and proven ability to successfully implement, it’s easy to understand why his tenure as president has been so successful.”
—Craig J. Duchossois, University Regent
“Alan further demonstrated his leadership agility and vision during the surprising and confounding COVID-19 pandemic shutdown/slowdown. On the one hand, Alan was able to inspire the faculty, staff, and students to convert overnight and safely to a new, more online approach to advancing together so that all students were able to be moved along and graduate without compromising Illinois Tech’s distinct quality standards. On the other hand, while Alan had to cultivate further consensus for the tough, sophisticated adjustments to right-size the institution’s budget during this crisis, he had the vision to know that the university had to continue making select investments even in such a challenging budgetary environment, including making investments in student community life and hiring top-notch talent.
“We were all lucky to have been able to serve with and support Alan in his prodigious accomplishments as provost and then, as president. Alan is a gifted leader and an even better friend.”
—Michael P. Galvin (LAW ’78), Current Chairman of the Board of Trustees
“President Cramb has been so great to work with through the President’s Student Advisory Council (PSAC). Through the many meetings I have had with President Cramb through PSAC, he was always very open to listening to and discussing issues, concerns, and ideas of the student body, and always had the students’ best interest in mind. He always, at every single meeting, encouraged us to come up with ideas to improve the student experience at [Illinois Tech]. And the fact that he met with us and valued the importance and goal of PSAC is a testament to how much he cares.”
—Natalia Gielczowski (CHE, M.S. ENVE ’21), PSAC Secretary
“How does one describe Alan? An engineer, and a very good one. A Scotsman with more than the usual pipe music. An experienced university administrator with the courage to face hard problems. A somewhat old-fashioned male with the wit to marry a woman with more pizzazz. A good leader and a good friend.
“Jeanne and I have enjoyed many evenings with Alan and [his wife], Anna, both in Chicago and in Naples [Florida]. He is always open, realistic, and optimistic at the same time. He represents perfectly what is called the Stockdale paradox: the courage to face grim realities and the optimism to be sure of surviving them. That spirit has brought Illinois Tech through COVID-19. His leadership has been one of the largest factors in the contributions that Jeanne and I have made to Illinois Tech. We only hope his successor has such virtues.”
—John W. Rowe, University Regent and Chairman of the Board of Trustees 2006–2013
“My 13 years in leadership at Illinois Tech, first as provost and then as president, have been the highlight of my time in academia. Working with our faculty, staff, and students has been a joy. They are unique and outstanding, allowing the university to weather some stormy times and arrive at this transition where Illinois Tech’s future is very bright. We can see the end of the pandemic and a return to our strengths in experiential learning, the development of the leaders of the future, and our making a difference in the world through our graduates.
“No leader leads on their own. My accomplishments are the result of a great leadership team that toiled to make me successful—Peter Kilpatrick, Mike Horan, Anthony D’Amato, Sandra LaPorte, Bruce Watts, Jess Goode, Mike Gosz, Darsh Wasan, Nick Menhart, and Ernie Iseminger. I thank them for their efforts, teamwork, and willingness to always focus on the best interests of the university. I also would like to thank my board chairs, Bud Wendorf and Mike Galvin, for their support and aid during my time as president, and also to the university regents, four very special people without whom the university would not be where it is today.
“Finally, I’d like to recognize my wife, Anna, who allowed me to be your president through her sacrifice and willingness to share her life and my life with others. She was always there to listen, give sage advice, turn up when necessary, and share the positives and negatives of a leadership position. My successes were only possible because of her support and love.
—Alan W. Cramb, President, Illinois Institute of Technology 2015–2021