Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago

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Illinois Institute of Technology, commonly called Illinois Tech or IIT, is a private Ph.D.-granting university located in Chicago, Illinois, with programs in engineering, science, psychology, architecture, business, communications, industrial technology, information technology, design, and law. It is a member of the Association of Independent Technological Universities.


IIT was formed in 1940 by the merger of Armour Institute of Technology (founded in 1890) and Lewis Institute (founded in 1895).

Armour Institute of Technology

The Armour Institute of Technology was founded in 1890 with one million dollars from Philip Danforth Armour, Sr., a prominent Chicago meat packer and grain merchant. Armour had heard Chicago minister Frank W. Gunsaulus say that with a million dollars he would build a school that would be open to students of all backgrounds instead of just the elite. After the sermon, Armour approached Gunsaulus and asked if he was serious about his claim. When Gunsaulus said yes, Armour told him that if he came by his office in the morning, he would give him the million dollars. Armour also stipulated that Gunsaulus become the first president of the school, and Gunsaulus served as president of Armour Tech from its founding in 1890 until his death in 1921. Gunsaulus's sermon thus became known as the "Million Dollar Sermon". Armour Institute of Technology opened its doors on September 14, 1890. It shared the neighborhood now known as Bronzeville with many historic places: Comiskey Park was a few blocks away, west of what is now the Dan Ryan Expressway; the land used to expand the campus in the 1940s through 1970s was home to many of Chicago's old famous jazz and blues clubs, with performers like Louis Armstrong highlighting the neighborhood.

Lewis Institute

Founded in 1895 from the estate of the Chicago real estate investor Allen Cleveland Lewis, Lewis Institute stood where the United Center now stands. Allen Lewis was one of many investors to descend on Chicago after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, and helped to rebuild the city's west side. Under its first director, George Noble Carman, Lewis Institute was the first institution to offer adult education programs, making it the first junior college in the United States. The Institute offered courses in engineering, sciences, and technology, but also featured courses in home economics and other domestic arts. Lewis Institute offered a program in which a young child was borrowed from a member of the community and would be cared for by students for up to a year. As the first President, Carman helped create North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the first educational accreditation board. Armour's campus became the permanent home of the new school while Lewis's campus was briefly repurposed by the City of Chicago as a civic building before being demolished for the construction of the United Center. The resistance by Lewis supporters led to a court battle in which the original will of Allen C. Lewis was dissolved. The Lewis Institute and Armour Institute completed the merger in July 1940, with the first academic year for the new Illinois Institute of Technology beginning in the fall of the same year. the school saw a large increase in students and expanded the Armour campus beyond its original 7 acre. Two years before the merger, German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe joined the then Armour Institute of Technology to head both Armour's and the Art Institute of Chicago's architecture program. The Art Institute would later separate and form its own program. Mies was given the task of designing a completely new campus, and the result was a spacious, open, 120 acre campus set in contrast to the busy, crowded urban neighborhood around it. The first Mies-designed buildings were completed in the mid-1940s, and construction on what is considered the "Mies Campus" continued until the early 1970s.

Engineering and research also saw great growth and expansion from the post-war period until the early 1970s. IIT experienced its greatest period of growth from 1952 to 1973 under President John T. Rettaliata, a fluid dynamicist whose research accomplishments included work on early development of the jet engine and a seat on the National Aeronautics and Space Council. This period saw IIT as the largest engineering school in the United States, as stated in a feature in the September 1953 issue of Popular Science magazine. IIT housed many research organizations: IIT Research Institute (formerly Armour Research Foundation and birthplace of magnetic recording wire and tape as well as audio and video cassettes), the Institute of Gas Technology, and the American Association of Railroads, among others.

Three colleges merged with IIT after the 1940 Armor/Lewis merger: Institute of Design in 1949, Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1969, and Midwest College of Engineering in 1986. IIT's Stuart School of Business was founded by a gift from Lewis Institute alumnus Harold Leonard Stuart in 1969, and joined Chicago-Kent at IIT's Downtown Campus in 1992; it phased out its undergraduate program (becoming graduate-only) after Spring 1995. (An undergraduate business program focusing on technology and entrepreneurship was launched in Fall 2004 and was for a while administratively separate from the Stuart School. It is now part of the school, but remains on Main Campus.) The Institute of Design, once housed on the Main Campus in S.R. Crown Hall, also phased out its undergraduate programs and moved downtown in the early 1990s.

Though not used in official communication, the nickname "Illinois Tech" has long been a favorite of students, inspiring the name of the student newspaper; (renamed in 1928 from Armour Tech News to TechNews), and the former mascot of the university's collegiate sports teams, the Techawks. During the 1950s and 1960s, the nickname was actually more prevalent than "IIT." This was reflected by the Chicago Transit Authority's Green Line rapid transit station at 35th and State being named "Tech-35th", but has since been changed to "35th-Bronzeville-IIT."


In 1994, the National Commission on IIT considered leaving the Mies Main Campus and moving to the Chicago suburbs. Construction of a veritable wall of Chicago Housing Authority high-rises replaced virtually all of IIT's neighbors in the 1950s and 1960s, a well-meaning but flawed attempt to improve conditions in an economically declining portion of the city. The closest high-rise, Stateway Gardens, was located just south of the IIT campus boundary, the last building of which was demolished in 2006. But the Dearborn Homes to the immediate north of campus still remain. The past decade has seen a redevelopment of Stateway Gardens into a new, mixed-income neighborhood dubbed Park Boulevard; the completion of the new central station of the Chicago Police Department a block east of the campus; and major commercial development at Roosevelt Road, just north of the campus, and residential development as close as Michigan Avenue on the east boundary of the school.

Bolstered by a $120 million gift in the mid-1990s from IIT alumnus Robert Pritzker, former chairman of IIT's Board of Trustees, and Robert Galvin, former chairman of the board and former Motorola executive, the university has benefited from a revitalization. The first new buildings on Main Campus since the "completion" of the Mies Campus in the early 1970s were finished in 2003—Rem Koolhaas's McCormick Tribune Campus Center and Helmut Jahn's State Street Village. S.R. Crown Hall, a National Historic Landmark, saw renovation in 2005 and the renovation of Wishnick Hall was completed in 2007. Undergraduate enrollment has breached 2,500.

IIT also contains the College of Architecture. This College began in 1895 when trustees of Armour Institute and Art Institute merged the architectural programs of both schools to form the Chicago School of Architecture of Armour Institute.

The Institute of Psychology was created in 1996. Originally a part of the Lewis College of Science and Letters, the first psychology degrees were awarded in 1926.

The Center for Professional Development opened in 2001 in order to provide technology oriented education for working professionals.

In December 2009, IIT announced the formation of the School of Applied Technology, which is composed of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Industrial Technology and Management (INTM) and Information Technology and Management (ITM), as well as non-credit Professional Learning Programs (PLP). These programs were all formerly part of the Center for Professional Development.

Chicago-Kent College of Law began in 1886 with law clerks receiving tutorials from Appellate Judge Joseph M. Bailey in order to prepare for the newly instated Illinois Bar Examination. By 1888 these evening sessions developed into formal classes and the Chicago College of Law was established. It wasn't until 1969 that the school was incorporated into Illinois Institute of Technology.

  • IIT was ranked as a tier 1 university being the 111th best university nationally, and the third best university in the Chicago metropolitan area (after the University of Chicago and Northwestern University) based on U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges 2011"
  • IIT-Kent was ranked as a tier 1 law school being the 61st best law school nationally based on U.S. News & World Report." Following rapid growth during the Great Migration of African-Americans from the south between 1910 and 1920, it became home to numerous African-American owned businesses and cultural institutions and offered an alternative to the race restrictions that were prevalent in the rest of the city. The projects were demolished beginning in the 1999,]]

The campus, roughly bounded between 31st and 35th streets, Michigan Avenue and the Dan Ryan Expressway, was designed by modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, "one of the great figures of 20th-century architecture", who chaired the IIT School of Architecture from 1938 to 1958. Van der Rohe's master plan for the IIT campus was one of the most ambitious projects he ever conceived and the campus, with twenty of his works, is the greatest concentration of his buildings in the world. The layout of the campus departs radically from "traditional college quadrangles and limestone buildings". Recently, IIT even started a Cricket as a part of non-varsity-level sports. Their cricket team competes in Division II of the Midwest Cricket Conference.

Notable people


  • Lori Andrews, Distinguished Professor of Law
  • John F. O. Bilson, Professor of Finance
  • Harry Callahan, Professor of photography
  • Cosmo Campoli, Professor of sculpture
  • Michael Davis, Professor of Philosophy
  • S. I. Hayakawa, Professor of English
  • Fazlur Khan, Adjunct Professor of Structural Engineering
  • Albert Henry Krehbiel, Professor of Art
  • Leon M. Lederman, Professor of Physics (Nobel Laureate, Physics)
  • Walter McCrone, Professor of Microscopy and Materials Science
  • Karl Menger, Professor of Mathematics
  • László Moholy-Nagy, Professor of Design
  • Edward Reingold, Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics
  • Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Assistant Professor of English
  • Tamara Goldman Sher, Professor of Psychology
  • Nambury S. Raju, Professor of Psychology
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Professor of Architecture
  • Herbert Simon, Professor of Psychology (Nobel Laureate, Economics)
  • John Henry Waddell, Professor of Sculpture/Art


  • John Calamos, Founder of Calamos Asset Management
  • Marvin Camras, Electrical Engineering, "Father of Magnetic Recording"
  • Martin Cooper, Electrical Engineering, Inventor of first Mobile Phone with Motorola
  • Paul Galvin, Founder of Motorola
  • Munir Ahmad Khan, Chairman, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission 1972-1991, and IAEA Board of Governors, 1986-87.
  • Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India
  • Kalyan Ram, Indian actor

See also

  • Chicago architecture
  • Center on Nanotechnology and Society
  • IIT Research Institute (IITRI)
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • McCormick Tribune Campus Center


External links