The annual Alumni Awards are an IIT tradition to recognize those who made notable contributions to their communities, professions, and the university. This year, the luncheon ceremony will be held Friday, April 19, 2013 and will recognize 11 winners in eight categories.
Robert A. Pritzker (IE ’46) is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner. The award is bestowed posthumously on an individual who has recently passed away and who, during his or her life, achieved personal success, made an outstanding contribution to his or her chosen field of endeavor, and achieved recognition by his or her colleagues.
Read on for more about Pritzker and look for new winner profiles in IIT Today each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until the event.
B.S. Industrial Engineering (’46), Illinois Institute of Technology; Honorary Doctorate of Engineering Degree (’84), Illinois Institute of Technology
Robert “Bob” Pritzker was the first engineering and operations man in a family of lawyers. After graduating from IIT at the young age of 19, he later became president of the Colson Company, a manufacturer of industrial and institutional casters and wheeled equipment. His leadership led to the acquisition of other companies, which in 1964 were merged under the name The Marmon Group. Pritzker led the highly successful company through hundreds of acquisitions for more than 50 years based on his principles of fairness and honesty, and increased revenues from $3 million to $7 billion.
Although he became a global business leader, Pritzker never lost his love for IIT. He became the youngest member of the Board of Trustees in 1962, serving as chairman from 1990 to 2006, and was named a University Regent in 2004. He served as chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers and was a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Pritzker taught management and engineering courses at IIT, the University of Chicago, and Oxford University.
Civic and Philanthropic Endeavors
A philanthropic giant, Pritzker left an unparalleled legacy in Chicago and especially at IIT. His 1996 challenge gift of $60 million inspired generations of IIT alumni, re-energized the university, and led to the creation of the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program and the Camras Scholars Program, which dramatically strengthened IIT’s ability to attract the best and brightest students. Pritzker’s vision for technology in medicine resulted in the founding of the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering, and IIT recently announced plans to name its core science facility The Robert A. Pritzker Research Center in his honor. Pritzker was inducted into the IIT Hall of Fame in 2002.
Pritzker was a generous donor and board leader for many organizations, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rush University Medical Center, Lincoln Park Zoological Society, Chicago Jazz Ensemble, MPN Research Foundation, Junior Achievement International, and The Field Museum.
As Remembered at IIT
When John Rowe succeeded Pritzker as chairman of the IIT Board of Trustees, Rowe was asked to comment on Pritzker’s contributions to IIT. Rowe replied: “That’s like asking, ‘How do you assess George Washington?’”