My first significant experience with Lew Collens was during the construction of the new Downtown Campus for Chicago-Kent College of Law, which he initiated when he was dean of Chicago-Kent.
The strategy was simple. Moving the school to a larger, state-of-the-art, computer-friendly building in the West Loop would allow Chicago-Kent to achieve its potential. Our firm, Power Construction, was chosen as the contractor for the building, located at Jefferson and Adams.
The rest is history.
As dean, Lew often visited the job site to observe the progress. True to his management style, he never intruded on the process. He attended all the major events, such as the groundbreaking, the topping-out, and the dedication ceremonies. Power Construction was the builder, but Lew was the “boss.” He put his trust in our firm and then stepped aside to let us do the job.
Since then, Chicago-Kent has grown in the number and quality of students. The average LSAT score of the incoming class has increased. Its reputation likewise has been elevated, both in terms of its higher academic standards and the increase in students coming from outside the Chicago area. Today, Chicago-Kent is among the premier law schools in the Midwest.
In 1993, Stuart School of Business moved to Downtown Campus. With that move, Stuart has experienced rising enrollment and the growth and success of such programs as the top-ranked Financial Markets program.
The facility we built with Lew’s guidance has been the home for that growth. In retrospect, the decision to expand to the West Loop was truly visionary considering how this area has developed in the past 16 years. The Downtown Campus is centrally located in a vibrant mixed-use market. Students and faculty have immediate access to employers and other resources located in downtown Chicago.
As with many of his later decisions, Lew exhibited foresight in this major commitment, confirming to all of us that he was the right man for the right job at the right time. For many years to come, IIT will reap the benefits of his decisions and accomplishments.