IIT History

The Sermon & the Institute

In 1890, when advanced education was often reserved for society’s elite, Chicago minister Frank Gunsaulus delivered what came to be known as the “Million Dollar Sermon.”

From the pulpit of his South Side church, near the site Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) now occupies, Gunsaulus said that with a million dollars he would build a school where students from all backgrounds could prepare for meaningful roles in a changing industrial society. Philip Danforth Armour, a Chicago meat packer and grain merchant, heard Gunsaulus’ sermon and came to share the minister’s vision. He agreed to finance the endeavor with the stipulation that Gunsaulus become the first president of Armour Institute.

When Armour Institute opened in 1893, it offered professional courses in engineering, chemistry, architecture and library science. IIT was created in 1940 by the merger of Armour Institute with Lewis Institute (est. 1895), a West Side Chicago college that offered liberal arts as well as science and engineering courses. The Institute of Design, founded in 1937, merged with IIT in 1949.

Mergers & Changes

In 1969, IIT became one of the few technology-based universities with a law school when Chicago-Kent College of Law, founded in 1887, became a part of the university.

Stuart School of Business was added in 1969, as a gift from the estate of Lewis Institute alumnus and Chicago financier Harold Leonard Stuart. The school became the Stuart School of Business in 1999. Midwest College of Engineering, founded in 1967, joined the university in 1986, forming the nucleus for IIT’s Rice Campus in west suburban Wheaton.

Today, IIT is a private, Ph.D.-granting university with programs in engineering, science, psychology, architecture, business, design and law.

One of the 16 institutions that comprise the Association of Independent Technological Universities (AITU), IIT offers exceptional preparation for professions that require technological sophistication. Through committed faculty and close personal attention, IIT provides a challenging academic program focused by the rigor of the real world.

Inventing the Future

The university and its contract research affiliate, IIT Research Institute (IITRI), have an annual research volume of $130 million. Current research strengths include fluid dynamics and aerospace, synchrotron radiation science, environmental engineering and regulatory policy, polymer science and recycling, food safety and technology, and transportation and infrastructure.

IIT has more than 67,000 living alumni and is known as the alma mater of both accomplishments and innovators. IIT and IITRI scientists and engineers have made some of the century’s most important technological advances, such as pioneering work in the field of magnetic recording and the development of re-entry technology for spacecraft. IIT architects have shaped the skylines of Chicago and cities throughout the world.

IIT has five campuses in the Chicago area. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who directed IIT’s architecture program from 1938–1958 and was one of the twentieth century’s most influential architects, designed the 120-acre Main Campus, centered at 33rd and State streets in Chicago, and many of its buildings. In 1976, the American Institute of Architects recognized Main Campus as one of the 200 most significant works of architecture in the United States.

S. R. Crown Hall, home of IIT College of Architecture, was named a National Historic Landmark in 2001, and the remainder of Main Campus was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

The state-of-the-art, 10-story Downtown Campus at 565 West Adams Street houses Chicago-Kent College of Law, the Center for Financial Markets, and the Master of Public Administration Program.

IIT Institute of Design, an international leader in teaching systemic, human-centered design, is located at 350 North LaSalle Street in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

The 19-acre Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Campus in west suburban Wheaton complements area community colleges, serving west suburban residents and employees in Illinois’s high-tech corridor by offering graduate programs, upper-level undergraduate courses, and continuing professional education.

Moffett Campus in suburban Bedford Park, Ill., houses the Institute for Food Safety and Health, a world-class food-science research institute focusing on food safety, food defense, and nutrition for stakeholders in government, industry, and academia.

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