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Armour and Lewis Unite - The Beginnings of IIT

(The following essay about the creation of Illinois Institute of Technology was published in December 1939 in the Armour Engineer and Alumnus.)

Armour Institute of Technology and Lewis Institute, each with nearly fifty years of honorable record, have entered into an agreement to combine to form the Illinois Institute of Technology. In the new organization, the backgrounds and the reputations of the two component colleges are recognized by the use of the names Armour College of Engineering, for the division of engineering, and Lewis College of Science, for the division of science and arts.

The union results in the formation of a center of technological education having about 7,000 students in day and evening classes, the largest school of its kind. Alumni and former students number more than 70,000.

The desirability of this step, the most important in the history of Armour and Lewis since their foundation, was considered carefully and at length by the trustees of the two schools, and the plan for consolidation was adopted by unanimous vote. Representative groups of Armour and Lewis alumni, from classes graduated as far back as 1899, have voted unanimously for resolutions of approval.

During the school year now in progress, there will be little change in programs already under way but study will be given to the working out of details in accordance with the general principles that have been decided upon. In September of next year the consolidation will take effect, but for a while it will be necessary to operate both the Armour and Lewis plants. Complete development of the plan contemplates the acquisition of a new, well-planned campus, conveniently situated.

The new institution will provide for integration of the educational work in the fields of science, engineering, management, and the humanities, now carried on in the two colleges. Both schools will contribute important features to a program superior to what would be easily practicable for either working alone. Control will be by a Board of Trustees of Armour and of Lewis.

The educational program will have as its basis a foundation of the sciences, physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, and biology. The engineering curricula will include civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical and fire protection engineering. An expansion of the work in the division of architecture and applied art now becomes possible through the union of the two colleges and the fact that architects of international reputation have recently been added to the staff of Armour.

The department of biology already in operation at Lewis will bring added strength to the work in sanitary engineering which has recently been given increased facilities at Armour. A comprehensive program of public health engineering is thereby made possible.

Emphasis will be placed upon industrial management, to meet the increasing demands of industry for men with this training and for research in the field of management and personnel.

The present Armour cooperative course in mechanical engineering will be continued. It is about to enter its fifth year, and has been notably successful, as indicated by the present enrollment of three hundred students who are employed by one hundred and ten industrial corporations in the Chicago area.

The new Institute has had twenty-five years of experience in the teaching of aeronautics and aeronautical engineering. Pilot training now in operation under the sponsorship of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, and research projects sponsored by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, combined with new facilities that will result from the merger, will enable the institution to assume an important position in teaching and research in aeronautics. One of the most important functions of the new school will be to provide greater opportunities for adult education by offering college courses to young men and women who are earning their living. The evening curricula in the adult education division will offer the degree of Bachelor of Science in all the major fields of engineering, arts, and science.

In the Chicago area, the master's degree in engineering has been obtainable only at Armour. This graduate division already enrolls more than four hundred students, and is the second largest in the United States. Increased emphasis will be given to graduate work in both day and evening classes.

For many years, Lewis Institute has maintained a successful course in home economics; this will be continued and developed further.

It is felt that emphasis on the humanities and the social sciences is necessary to attain the broad objective of the Institute, which is to develop in its graduates wider intellectual interests than have commonly been found in graduates in technology.

The agreement brings together the facilities and the staffs of two institutions which have long been engaged in research in the basic sciences and their engineering applications. It now becomes possible to combine these activities so that more important contributions to knowledge can be made. Research will be carried on by students and faculty in correlation with the educational program, and also through the continued activities of the Research Foundation of Armour Institute of Technology, which already has a record of three years of successful service to more than four hundred and fifty industrial organizations. It will be recalled that for many years pioneer work in cements and concrete was carried on at Lewis, and that it provided the basis for much of the design and technique involved in modern concrete structures and pavements.

Lewis Institute was established as the result of a bequest by Allen C. Lewis. Armour Institute of Technology was founded by Philip D. Armour. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Armour had the same motive; both wished to provide educational opportunities of a kind not then available to young men and women in this area. The merging of the two institutions brings together the resources provided by the two founders, and enables their basic objective to be achieved in a manner appropriate to existing conditions.

Many alumni and former students of Armour and Lewis have reached positions of leadership in science, industry, public service, and all phases of American life. Judged by their product; the two colleges have contributed continually to the cultural and economic development of Chicago and the nation.

Illinois Institute of Technology provides for the community greatly increased facilities for education and research, opportunities for the production of improved personnel for industry, and enhanced contributions to citizenship. It enables the young men and women of Chicago to find in their own community the best in technological education.

For every alumnus of Armour and Lewis, and for every graduate in the years to come, the union of the two colleges should bring increased pride and loyalty for his alma mater. In the community as a whole, the consolidation will unify support which has hitherto been divided between two institutions and will permit those who wish to support education and research in technology to concentrate their efforts upon one major institution.

Editor's Note: To learn more about IIT since 1940, see the Expanding Campus Boundaries: The IIT Building Program During World War II exhibit.

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