Alex D. BaileyFounders Group
Alex Bailey joined the Board of Trustees of Lewis Institute in the depths of the Great Depression. After only three years, he became, in 1937, chairman and the nominal head of the school's governance. Only two years after that, upon departure of the Institute's director, Bailey became the de facto head of the school's administration and academics as well. As head of Commonwealth Edison's power plants in his professional life, Bailey was taking on a potential powder keg of its own in Lewis Institute. Lack of awareness of Lewis' financial, academic and facilities problems among its alumni, as well as dropping enrollment and over-extended credit as an institution, heightened the challenge ahead of him as its leader.
By the late 1930s, both Lewis Institute and Armour Institute of Technology were burdened with multiple aging buildings, and both schools were on unstable economic ground. Bailey approached Henry T. Heald, president of AIT, with the proposal of merging the two schools and capitalizing on the strengths of both. The 1940 merger that created IIT, and the coming of WW II which spawned government-funded training opportunities for military personnel, may have been the fortuitous combination of events that saved all three institutions from financial demise. Bailey continued to serve on the IIT Board and Executive Committee, but took a back seat to James Cunningham, who transitioned from being chair of the Armour Board to chair of the IIT Board of Trustees.
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