A ‘Billion Dollar’ Purpose: Illinois Tech Announces $1 Billion Campaign to Fuel Chicago’s Tech Rise

Illinois Institute of Technology announced, on September 27, 2022, a historic $1 billion fundraising campaign to further Illinois Tech’s founding mission to uplift people from all backgrounds with a technology- and professional-oriented education that will help meet the needs of the age.

The campaign, Power the Difference: Our Campaign for Illinois Tech, is focused on making Illinois Tech’s long-term strategic plan a reality by helping the university grow its student body; invest in faculty, facilities, and educational programs; develop and deliver new, world-leading research programs; and serve as the premier technology-focused university in Chicago. The Illinois Tech Board of Trustees approved the $1 billion campaign goal at its annual meeting on September 15, 2022.

The announcement harkens back to the founding of Illinois Tech, in 1890, when Chicago minister Frank Wakeley Gunsaulus delivered what came to be known as the “Million Dollar Sermon” from the pulpit of his South Side church near the site that the university now occupies.  At a time when advanced education was often reserved for society’s elite, Gunsaulus said that with $1 million, he could build a school of higher education where students of all backgrounds could prepare for meaningful roles in a changing industrial society. Philip Danforth Armour Sr., an industrialist and philanthropist, answered Gunsaulus’s call and provided the funds needed to found the university that would become Illinois Tech.

“Amidst the first Industrial Revolution, Gunsaulus saw the needs of his time, understood the potential of his community, and created a vision that brought those two together to meet the future,” announced Michael P. Galvin (LAW ’78), chair of the Illinois Tech Board of Trustees, at a private event introducing the campaign goal, where he and Illinois Tech President Raj Echambadi delivered what has been dubbed Illinois Tech’s “Billion Dollar Sermon.” “Tonight, we are here on the precipice of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—a technology-driven revolution. Never has a world so desperately needed our mission as much as our world needs us today.”

Power the Difference campaign funds are already being utilized to help further establish Illinois Tech as one of the “best value” universities in the region and across the nation in terms of elevating its students into the top 20 percent of economic, professional, and entrepreneurial leadership in society. Illinois Tech does so via new and unique learning models, including required computational literacy in every degree, a quarter-century-old collaborative and interdisciplinary curriculum focused on entrepreneurial skills, and hands-on training and mentorship as a core part of its curriculum. The campaign has already raised more than $357 million during its initial leadership phase—more than one-third of the way to a $1 billion campaign goal.

In his first year in office as president of Illinois Tech, Echambadi began the ambitious task of crafting the visionary and comprehensive strategic plan that is already growing Illinois Tech in stature and scale.

“The technological transformation of higher education creates an exciting potential for Illinois Tech’s future growth. We now have an opportunity, rooted in our founding mission, to create a new type of university for the twenty-first century,”  Echambadi said at the event. “There can be no greater investment than to build a unique twenty-first century university whose calling is rooted in harnessing the power of collective difference to advance technology and innovation for all.”

The comprehensive campaign includes The Chicago Difference, a community transformation and scholarship initiative that takes on the income inequality across neighborhoods—especially targeting the underrepresented West and South Side neighborhoods in Chicago that surround the university’s immediate Bronzeville community—by providing a successful career pathway from deeper STEM education and wraparound collegiate support to high-paying job placement right here in Chicago.

Since the Power the Difference campaign began its leadership phase, Illinois Tech has seen the development of cutting-edge spaces to facilitate world-leading research, including the Trimble Technology Lab and the Adrian (EE ’70) and Lorna Nemcek Lab. Earlier this year Illinois Tech received a gift from Keysight Technologies to modernize the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Walter L. and Virginia B. Cherry Electronics Laboratory and to give students experience using state-of-the-art testing and measurement equipment in their hands-on engineering laboratories and independent design projects. The last two years have also seen the creation of eight endowed chairs such as the Arthur W. Hill Endowed Chair in Sustainability and Michael Paul Galvin Chair in Entrepreneurship and Applied Legal Technology.

Illinois Tech has updated its campus for the future of learning, recently completing a $70 million, three-building housing project incorporating a commitment to environmental sustainability into student learning and living spaces at George J. Kacek HallCunningham Hall, and Carman Hall.

“Illinois Tech is leading the way in empowering students with the skills needed to drive scientific and technological advancement on a global scale,” said Ernie Iseminger, vice president for advancement at Illinois Tech. “Power the Difference is designed to shape the next century of leaders and create the next era of innovation for the world. We are in a world that continues to call for new and different ways of thinking, and Illinois Tech is born to answer that call. It will take everyone to successfully reach our campaign goal, but I am confident that our alumni and university community will continue to rally in support of this inspiring cause.”