Let me state the obvious. I am not John Anderson, president of Illinois Institute of Technology. When you open IIT Magazine, you expect to see a letter from him on this page—and so do I. For the eight years that John has led our university, his letters have told us how IIT is doing, what challenges it is facing, and what’s new and noteworthy.
John has always stressed the importance of CONNECTION—keeping in touch, whether you are an IIT graduate or a friend of the university. One of his wishes is that every alumnus and alumna will someday come back to see how IIT has changed. And it’s about taking a look beyond Main Campus. John wants IIT alumni to visit the new South Side—to see how the university has connected with the surrounding area, including Bronzeville, too.
In this issue of IIT Magazine, you will read about the history of IIT’s Bronzeville neighborhood and how it flourished in the early twentieth century. During these formative years Bronzeville made significant social and cultural advances in African-American history. At the same time, IIT was a growing university already contributing to advances in innovation and technology. Independently, both IIT and Bronzeville were history makers in their own right!
As a South Side kid, although I did not live in Bronzeville, I was very familiar with IIT and its neighborhood. In the late 1950s, before I was born, my parents were students at IIT and lived in apartment 711 in Bailey Hall. They told me how very proud they were of IIT as an educational institution and how much they enjoyed sharing their lives with fellow students from around the world and with their colleagues from Bronzeville. Little did they know that two of their children would one day be products of IIT’s pre-collegiate Early Identification Program, which attracted many African-American students to the university.
A lot has changed since I graduated in 1984. Back then some of us felt that there was no real connection between our campus and Bronzeville. And, for some of us who had an “urban tale” to tell, the campus served as the neighborhood oasis for students.
Today, you can feel the passion for IIT to have a connection. When I returned to the university to serve on the alumni board, I was astounded by the transformation. Now, we relate the Starbucks on the corner of 35th and State and residents jogging in the park as clear signs of urban renewal. There is a new Metra stop by campus, the old Comiskey Park is now U.S. Cellular Field, the MTCC student center is a campus gathering place, and Bronzeville continues to experience its own renaissance—with IIT as a partner in its progress. These things make our neighborhood one of the most beautiful areas on the South Side.
Although a lot has changed at IIT, much of what makes IIT special hasn’t changed at all. We still continue to attract the best and brightest students from this country and all over the world, and our faculty and alumni remain global innovators, making significant contributions worldwide.
During this 125th anniversary year, I hope you will return to campus to see what’s different. Check out some of the great places highlighted in this issue of IIT Magazine. Take a look around the Bronzeville, Bridgeport, and nearby Pilsen communities. It’s time to welcome you back!
John, from all of us at the IIT Alumni Association, thank you for helping to keep us CONNECTED to this great place and for building connections in our community. Best wishes to you and your wife, Pat, as you begin this next chapter of your lives!
Andrea Berry (CS ’84)
IIT Alumni Association President