Harnessing the Ripple Effect

By Brianne Meyer
Peter Chan (M.S. CS ’75)

The term “ripple effect” is used to describe the spreading effect of a single action or event and serves as a representation of the idea that we are all connected. Each moment is like a stone being dropped into a body of water; it creates an awe-inspiring pattern that keeps multiplying and expanding outward.

As a young adult, Peter Chan (M.S. CS ’75) experienced a particularly profound moment in his life—one that has since created a powerful chain reaction of events that continues to transform our communities and our world to this day, including Illinois Institute of Technology.

Chan was born and raised in Hong Kong, where he graduated high school. When it came time to think about college, his father, KC, made a compelling case that his son should expand his horizon and pursue his undergraduate studies abroad. Little did Chan know that this was just the beginning of something much bigger than himself.

With the support of his family, Chan made the difficult decision to leave his home and enroll at the University of Prince Edward Island, located in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Although he studied math, he found his passion for all things computer science after working in the data processing center on campus.

Chan started at Illinois Tech a few years later, where his journey in computer science truly took off—forcing the ripples that his father had created to quickly expand. He found himself immersed in the computer science program, absorbing all that he could from his professors and mentors.

After graduating, Chan led a highly successful career in the computer science industry, most recently as senior software designer at Tandem Computers, based in California, before retiring around 2010.

“Having lived through our technological revolution is enriching,” says Chan. “I have seen a lot, from the early ’70s, when the computer was just becoming popular, all the way to today, when a single chip has the ability to power millions of handheld devices around the globe. We have made so much progress, and I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of such life-changing transformations.”

For Chan, Illinois Tech has always been the place that fostered his passion for computer science and unleashed his full potential—something that changed his career, and life, forever. This caused Chan to stop and reflect on how he, too, could leave an impact on the lives of others, as his father did for him. And so, feeling exceptionally inspired after reading a recent issue of Illinois Tech Magazine, he took action and established the KC Chan & Family Scholarship. This endowed scholarship aims to support students within the College of Computing so that they may continue their studies without a significant financial burden.

“My father always supported me in my decision to leave Hong Kong and see the world, which I am very grateful for,” says Chan. “My family has played an important role in my success, so I wanted to honor my family, especially my father, by establishing an endowment in their name. They encouraged me to open my eyes to the world around me and be a part of something bigger than myself. And Illinois Tech paved the path for me to do that. I feel honored to be in a position to pay it forward and give back to future students at the university.”

Chan hopes that his scholarship will provide students now, and for generations to come, with the opportunity to develop their interests into meaningful careers. Technology is continuing to change fast, and Chan recognizes that “an Illinois Tech education will put today’s students at the forefront of the technology world.” It is his expectation that they take advantage of the unique education provided to them at Illinois Tech in order to ignite change and advance the world in which we live.

In many ways, the generous support of the Illinois Tech community, including Chan’s, builds upon the university’s founding mission and allows students and alumni to contribute to solving important problems facing humanity. As Illinois Tech students graduate and become the leaders of tomorrow, Chan’s gift will continuously be at work through their thoughtful leadership and service.