The Illinois Institute of Technology is getting a $150 million donation from 10 longtime business leaders who want to boost Chicago’s tech standing.
The university is calling it the biggest combined gift in its history, and will use it to fund scholarships, renovations of student life facilities, and to better train students for Chicago’s technology jobs.
“When we look at Chicago trying to become really a destination for the tech industry, one of the key parts of that is that there’s a workforce here that is educated and able to join them right away and make a difference,” said Alan Cramb, university president.
The top three donors, who gave a combined $80 million, are Mike Galvin, Craig Duchossois and former Exelon chairman and CEO John Rowe. The other seven donors wish to remain anonymous, Cramb said
Galvin, who is chairman of the school’s board of trustees and runs portfolio management firm Galvin Enterprises, is the son of longtime Motorola executive Robert W. Galvin and grandson of Paul Galvin, a founder of Motorola. Robert Galvin joined forces in 1996 with Robert Pritzker and Jay Pritzker to give a then-record-setting $120 million to the school.
Rowe and Duchossois are university regents, the highest level of trustees. Duchossois is CEO and chairman of holding and investment company The Duchossois Group, and the son of 98-year-old horse-racing magnate Richard Duchossois.
The private, technology-focused research university offers degrees in engineering, computer science, business, law and more.
The donation will allow the university to train all students, regardless of major, to better use data to make decisions, and understand computer science and artificial intelligence, Mike Galvin said.
“There is no field anymore that doesn’t require an understanding and a capacity ... for data analytics, data creativity and data decision-making,” he said.
The university has grown its computer science department in recent years, in part through a $7.6 million donation from Chicago tech entrepreneur Chris Gladwin in 2015, shortly after he sold his big-data storage company Cleversafe to IBM.
Undergraduate computer science majors are up 88% since fall 2015, according to the university.
It’s not possible for a city to lead in technology without a top-tier, technology-oriented university, said Gladwin, a university trustee. The school "has to step forward in order to realize this opportunity of being part of transforming Chicago into being a leading tech hub,” he said. “This is a big part of that step.”
The university’s goals are aligned with those of P33, a Chicago nonprofit that Gladwin and former U.S. commerce secretary Penny Pritzker launched last year to boost Chicago’s standing among the world’s tech cities. Cramb, Mike Galvin and other university leaders are among the more than 200 business, civic and university leaders participating in the initiative.
More than 6,500 students are enrolled in the school in Chicago’s Bronzeville community, less than half of whom are undergraduates. The university’s roots date back to the early 1890s, when meatpacking giant Philip D. Armour founded the Armour Institute. The school later merged with the nearby Lewis Institute.
“Everyone, when they think about the tech world, thinks of California, thinks of the Boston area,” Cramb said. “We just need to raise the profiles of the great successes we’ve had in Chicago and let people realize it happened because of the tech talent that’s here.”
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