Illinois Tech alumna and Life Trustee Anita M. Nagler (LAW ’80)

Igniting Change Through a $1 Million Pledge to The Chicago Difference

By Howard J. Lee

Illinois Tech alumna and Life Trustee Anita M. Nagler (LAW ’80) realized that she had a profound interest in social causes, education, and philanthropy early on in her educational career. That profound interest turned passion inspired Nagler to pursue her legal education at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and eventually—with her first $50 donation to the Chicago-Kent Alumni Fund in 1986—kickstarted her philanthropic journey at Illinois Tech.

Nagler graduated with her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and, while working at a public defender’s office during her final undergraduate semester, she realized that she could achieve more as an attorney working in public interest than she might at the one-on-one social work level. With a renewed sense of purpose, Nagler enrolled in Chicago-Kent in 1977.

After law school, Nagler worked for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for 13 years, eventually rising to run the enforcement program in its Midwest Regional Office. Thereafter, she joined Harris Associates, a Chicago-based investment firm, where she was a partner and chief operating officer; she later became CEO of Harris Alternatives, LLC, an alternative investment firm spun out of Harris Associates. Nagler retired from Harris Alternatives at the end of 2005.

It was during her tenure on Illinois Tech’s Board of Trustees that Nagler came to learn about The Chicago Difference, a community transformation and scholarship initiative—one that marries her passion for social good and education—that is designed to provide support for talented young people from underrepresented backgrounds in Chicago across their entire student journey, from pre-college to career placement assistance.

“The Chicago Difference is a meaningful long-term initiative that is not just another scholarship born out of traditional models,” says Nagler. “Most collegiate support comes in the form of traditional scholarships, and, while there is a place for this type of support, it is very limiting in reality.”

Illinois Tech alumna and Life Trustee Anita M. Nagler (LAW ’80)

For Nagler and her husband, Robert Moyer, what really resonated was the program’s pre-college emphasis, as they believe that in order for initiatives such as The Chicago Difference to be truly impactful they must provide support in a more holistic fashion—and go back further than simply giving scholarship funds upon entry. Nagler explains that this type of collegiate support is often designed to assist and provide opportunities to young adults in highly challenged neighborhoods overlooks one very important reality: they simply do not have the background to get into college in the first place—or if they do get in, they lack the necessary skill set to succeed or even stay in.

“And they’re unlikely to get it the summer before they start school,” Nagler adds. “In some cases, these kids may not even make it to senior year of high school.”

For this reason, Nagler has earmarked her $1 million pledge to The Chicago Difference specifically to be utilized by applicants between their sophomore and junior year of high school in the hope that they can have a proper chance at success before stepping foot onto campus.

“My husband and I like to see talented, underprivileged kids with initiative be given every opportunity to learn a good skill, be well-employed, and have the chance to uplift themselves and their families to higher income brackets,” she says.

In recognition of her unwavering support of Illinois Tech, Nagler and her husband will join the ranks of other philanthropic families in the Philip Danforth Armour Society—named in honor of the university's founding donor.