Gerald “Jerry” L. Maatman Sr. (FPE ’51)
Gerald “Jerry” L. Maatman Sr., who taught and served as chairman in the fire protection and safety engineering department at Illinois Tech before continuing his career at Kemper National Insurance Company, passed away on December 1, 2021. Maatman, a standout student-athlete who played baseball and basketball at Illinois Tech, worked at the Illinois Inspection and Rating Bureau before returning to his alma mater in 1958, during which time he also served as a fire safety and building codes consultant to the City of Chicago. In 1966 he left the university to take a position at Kemper that focused on loss control through workplace safety, ultimately retiring as chairman and chief executive officer in 1995. Maatman once said his proudest achievement, however, came in 1989 when he helped to create and co-chaired Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a coalition of 10 major insurance companies, consumer groups, and auto safety advocates that has lobbied for strict DUI laws and safety features, including mandatory airbags and rollover cages in automobiles and mandatory motorcycle helmets, among other successes.
Lajos Schmidt (LAW ’54)
Lajos Schmidt, an international law expert and longtime leader at the Baker McKenzie law firm, passed away on November 8, 2021. A Hungary native, Schmidt received a law degree in his birth country and a doctorate in Germany before coming to the United States, where he began working at Baker McKenzie, performing office tasks while pursuing his U.S. law degree at Chicago-Kent College of Law. He spent his career in law at Baker McKenzie, where he served as chairman of the firm’s Executive and Policy committees, established offices in Frankfurt and Milan, and opened its Budapest office in 1987, the first Western law firm to establish an office in Central and Eastern Europe. He served as an Illinois Tech trustee, and, from 1980–86, served as chairman of the Chicago-Kent Board of Advisors. Among the many honors that Schmidt received during his lifetime included the Professional Achievement Award from Illinois Tech and the Distinguished Service Award from Chicago-Kent, which also named him among the college’s 125 Alumni of Distinction in 2013.
James Hill Jr.
James Hill Jr., a highly accomplished certified public accountant and expert financial professional who was a life trustee of Illinois Tech, passed away on December 23, 2021. The first African-American auditor at Alexander Grant & Company, Hill opened his own firm, Hill, Taylor LLC, in Chicago in 1972. His firm eventually merged with Mitchell & Titus, LLP, where he retired as a partner. An engaged philanthropist and community supporter, Hill served a multitude of organizations in and around Chicago, including Illinois Tech, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Better Government Association, Citizen Information Service, the Chicago Commons Association, the Economic Club of Chicago, and the Chicago Economic Advisory Committee, and as an adviser to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. For his service to Illinois Tech, Hill received the Galvin Award in 2021, the highest honor the university gives to non-alumni.
Virgil A. Abloh (M.S. ARCH ’06)
Virgil A. Abloh, a multi-hyphenate designer who studied architecture at Illinois Tech, passed away on November 28, 2021, at the age of 41 after a two-year battle with cardiac angiosarcoma. Abloh—whose work spanned fashion, furniture, music, and art, among other creative disciplines—was one of the most notable designers of his generation. He founded his design label, Off-White, in 2012, and was named men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton in 2018, becoming the first African American to take on the role. He is often credited with bringing streetwear to high fashion, while simultaneously paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive fashion industry. Abloh regularly cited how influential studying in S. R. Crown Hall was to him, returning to the famed campus building to direct photoshoots for Off-White and Louis Vuitton, and, in 2019, he installed a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-inspired lightbox adjacent to the building’s south stairway to promote his collaboration with Nike.