“The key to success is a commitment to the excellence, and we at IIT have that commitment.” —John L. Anderson.
It was a time for pageantry, as delegates of 25 colleges and universities, resplendent in academic regalia, processed along with students, faculty, alumni, board members, and honored guests from Illinois Institute of Technology into the auditorium of Hermann Hall on IIT’s Main Campus.
It was a time for celebrating creativity, as students—in a display demonstrating equal parts whimsy and wherewithal—showed that a handcrafted catapult, trebuchet, or flywheel hurling a pumpkin into the air and across the length of Siegel Field is as much a feat of engineering in its own right as is a rocket blastoff.
It was the inauguration of John L. Anderson as IIT’s eighth president, a joyous recognition of the university’s past, its unique place in a vibrant metropolis, and its vision for a future of upward excellence. More than 1,000 members of the IIT community and their guests welcomed the new president in a ceremony that opened with 98 students carrying flags of their native countries, the VanderCook College of Music Instrumental Ensemble performing various selections, and the IIT Reserve Officer Training Corps Tri-Service Color Guard presenting the flags of the United States and the armed forces. Grand Marshal John S. Kallend, associate dean of Armour College of Engineering, introduced Master of Ceremony John W. Rowe, chair of the IIT Board of Trustees, who told the audience that, given the president’s abilities as a university administrator, engineer, and scholar, he and the rest of the Presidential Search Committee “found in John Anderson someone who met all of our academic hopes, and then some.”
“Ask John Anderson what motivates him, why he chose an academic career, and why he’s so charged up about leading IIT. You’ll get an answer that’s common to most great university presidents, not only those of the twenty-first century. The answer is students.” —Jared L. Cohon President
Carnegie Mellon University
From “The University Presidency in the Twenty-first Century”
This sentiment was echoed by Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University, who delivered the inauguration’s keynote address. Anderson’s friend and former Carnegie Mellon colleague, Cohon assured the IIT community that Anderson was the right person for the job.
“With excitement over your recent progress and great hopes for more, all against a backdrop of a rapidly changing world, you need a president who understands you and all that is revolving around you,” said Cohon. “In John Anderson, you have that person—a president who is up to the challenge of harmonizing your many voices into one hope-filled vision for IIT's bright future,” he added, acknowledging the inaugural theme of “Many Voices, One Vision.”
“John, I know that you will wear this medallion with pride as you lead this institution to even greater distinction.” —Lew Collens
President Emeritus, IIT
In his address, which was streamed live online, Anderson commended the university community for its recent collaborative process of evaluation as well as its ambition in seeking to answer the question, “Who will we be?”
While Anderson outlined the goals he has for IIT—making improvements in the areas of enrollment, faculty research and recognition, fundraising, campus facilities, community relationships, and attracting high-quality faculty and students—he said that his priority for the coming year is to shape IIT’s vision for the future, a task he expects to do with a great deal of input.
“On behalf of all 60,728 proud graduates of IIT: welcome, John. We look forward to joining you in advancing the vision of the university.” —Bud Wendorf (ME ’71)
“We must hear from a variety of voices,” said Anderson. “I invite each of you to join me in this historic effort. I ask for your ideas and strategies, and I encourage you to engage in a vigorous debate and discussion on IIT’s future because we all have a stake in the outcome.”
In a symbolic gesture, individuals who represent the five main voices on campus—students, parents, staff, faculty, and alumni—greeted the president, lending their support. Eve Estrada, parent of two IIT undergraduates, shared her gratitude for what she is confident the president will accomplish. “On behalf of all IIT parents, I welcome you, John, to IIT, and thank you in advance for what you will do for our children,” said Estrada.
Other voices of welcome joined in weeks before the inauguration, as members of the IIT community filled out cards posing the question: What do (or did) you value most about your IIT experience? The responses were displayed onstage as part of the video component of the ceremony. For Alice Orphovos Kopan (HE ’54), it was the melding of lifelong friendships she made, critical-thinking skills she obtained, and excellent academic standards to which she aspired—a combination of ideals not unlike those shared by Anderson.
“During the search process, we learned a great deal about John, and most of it comes down to the word ‘commitment.’ Commitment to undergraduate education, commitment to integrating the schools that make up IIT, commitment to enhancing our capabilities wherever we can, commitment to raising the money necessary to do that.” —John W. Rowe Chair, IIT Board of Trustees and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation
“I could not have been happier,” Anderson reflects on the inauguration day festivities. “From my investiture to the Chicago-style lunch to the Pumpkin Launch, the day was filled with moments that shone and represented the very best of IIT. The many gestures of welcome and warm applause, the fellowship of all of us enjoying a meal, and the unique demonstration of our students taking an innovative approach to education are memories I will always remember. I look forward to working together to realize the potential of the university that matters so much to each one of us.”
Launch Draws Record Entries
Armed with a can-do spirit and plenty of engineering know-how, a record 19 teams competed in the third annual Pumpkin Launch, which took place on Siegel Field on Main Campus following the inauguration. Using a 32-foot tall trebuchet, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) team propelled its pumpkin a record 234 feet on its third and final attempt, besting by 65 feet, 4 inches the second-place Delts, who took the top prize for most creative launcher with its ballista crossbow. The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Medill Reports, CNN, and channels CBS 2, ABC 7, and Fox 32 all covered the event.
The winning team claimed a special guest as one of its crew members: John L. Anderson. “It was our honor to have President Anderson on our team for support. He chose our team to support our cause, to support a team that included young women engineers in a field that is predominantly male, and to support a team that exemplified diversity,” says Kaitlyn Conley (CAEE 3rd year), one of the team’s leaders. “Our team showed the dynamics that diversity both in gender and race offers in conjunction with our mutual passion and commitment when working together to successfully achieve a common cause.” Conley says that the team has donated its $1,000 prize to ASCE for the spring concrete canoe competition.
Visit the Inauguration Website
You can hear President John L. Anderson’s address by visiting the Presidential Inauguration website at www.iit.edu/inauguration. The site features video of the ceremony, links to Anderson’s biography and curriculum vitae, the biographies of past presidents, IIT history, and photos of the inauguration and Pumpkin Launch.