George N. CarmanFounders Group
The life of Dr. George N. Carman is inextricably bound into the history of one of Illinois Institute of Technology’s famed predecessors, Lewis Institute. In fact, Carman was the soul of Lewis Institute. He guided the destiny of that school for 40 years—from the day its doors opened in 1896 until his retirement in 1935.
Though the term was not then used, Lewis Institute actually was the first junior college in the United States. When it opened, it offered a four-year academy (high school) course and a two-year college program, and shortly thereafter, the Institute offered a four-year college program. Since the Institute had always been intended to serve those financially unable to attend the larger universities, evening classes were offered from the school’s inception.
Carman’s leadership went beyond Lewis Institute. He was one of the originators of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, serving in various officer roles, including president.
While Carman was a brilliant educator whose ideas were years ahead of his time, he is also remembered for his scrupulous attention to the individual student. He talked personally with each student before admitting him or her to classes. It has been estimated that 100,000 students attended the Institute at Madison St. and Damen Ave. (current site of the United Center) during the four decades of his directorship—including numerous men and women who contributed to the scientific, engineering, educational, medical, social service, and business fields across the country in the first half of the 20th century.
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