Illinois Tech inducts four distinguished alumni into Hall of Fame

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Photo courtesy of Illinois Tech Office of Marketing and Communications

On the evening of Tuesday, February 19, Illinois Tech held a formal event where it inducted four new members into the university Hall of Fame. This list of just over 50 trustees, alumni, faculty, and other community members represents some of the most notable achievements and contributions made by individuals throughout the university’s existence since 1893. Household names at this university such as Philip Danforth Armour, Senior and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on this list indicate that it contains only the most exceptional members of the Illinois Tech community. Thus, this formal dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in River North was a very notable occasion as four new members were added to this Hall of Fame, while another three individuals already on the list were given additional posthumous recognition.

In addition to several members of the university’s Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff, several current students from the President’s Student Advisory Council (PSAC), Student Government Association (SGA), and TechNews were also invited to “bear witness” to this historical event, as stated by President Alan Cramb in his opening remarks. Alongside President Cramb, the event was also presented by Illinois Tech Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Galvin (LAW ‘78).

The first Hall of Fame member to be recognized at this event before the official inductions was Robert “Pete” Bragg, Junior (1919-2017, PHYS ’49, M.S. ’51, Ph.D. ‘60). In addition to a long and successful career in metallurgy, Bragg, Jr. also spent much of his life as a leader in fighting against diversity issues in the workplace. Among many other accolades, Bragg served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy and was president of the Palo Alto chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The second member to be recognized was Vice Admiral Diego Hernandez (1934-2017, PSYC ’55). A decorated naval veteran, Hernandez’s military career spanned nearly four decades from 1955-1991, during which he led 147 combat missions in Vietnam before becoming the first Hispanic to command a naval aircraft carrier (the USS John F. Kennedy) in 1980. In addition, Hernandez would later become commander of U.S. Naval Forces Caribbean in 1982 before becoming commander of the U.S. Third Fleet in the Pacific in 1986. After retiring from military service in 1991, Hernandez continued to lead a number of civic projects, including the Metro-Miami Marketplace Destination: 2001 project exploring the area’s transportation potential.

Finally, the third recognized Hall of Fame member at the event was Frank Crossley (1925-2018, CHE ’45, M.S. MET ’47, Ph.D. MET’ 50). As a student at Illinois Tech, Crossley was among the first students to enter the national V-12 Navy College Training Program, becoming the only person of color to serve out of a class of 1500. Crossley was put in charge of the second-deck division of the USS Storm King, a troop transport before returning to Illinois Tech to complete his education. Crossley would continue to defy racial expectations of the time as the first Illinois Tech student to earn a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering, as well as being the first person of African ancestry in the world to earn a Ph.D. in the field of metallurgy. Despite his long battle with discrimination, Crossley was said to have found the most happiness in his work, whether it be with Lockheed Missiles and Space Company or as a volunteer mathematics and science tutor.

Then came the time for the four new inductions into the Illinois Tech Hall of Fame. Presented by Cramb and Galvin, Galvin began with the proud statement that this evening’s awards served as an indication that the university’s “future is filled with discovery, innovation, promise, and success.”

The first of the four alumni to be inducted into the Hall of Fame was Valdas Adamkus (CE ’61). Before emigrating from Soviet-occupied Lithuania in 1949 with his family at the age of 23, Adamkus had already established himself as a fighter, having published an underground resistance newspaper and more directly enlisting to fight against the Red Army as part of the National Defence Force.

Upon joining Illinois Tech, Adamkus solidified his reputation as a leader in Chicago’s Lithuanian-American community and begin a 27-year career with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), being presented with the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan. Adamkus did not end his distinguished career there, however. Upon retiring from the EPA in 1997, Adamkus announced his bid for presidency of Lithuania, serving in office from 2004 to 2009, achieving one of the highest approval ratings among Lithuanian presidents, increasing economic growth, and encouraging the country’s membership in both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

While Adamkus could not be present to receive his award, Mantvydas Bekesius, consulate general of the Republic of Lithuania in Chicago, accepted it on his behalf, reciting a letter of thanks Adamkus wrote in lieu of his attendance, thanking Illinois Tech for being and continuing to serve as a “guiding light to the future” that “equips in people a strong moral compass.”

The second induction was posthumously granted to Myron Goldsmith (1918-1996 B. ARCH ’39, M.S. ’53). A student of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Goldsmith’s architecture career as a partner at Skidmore Owings & Merrill saw him play a pivotal role in projects such as the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and the diagonally braced tubes most notably used on the John Hancock Center. Also noted, however, was Goldsmith’s “brilliance and gentle personality,” as he welcomed upwards of visitors to his suburban home throughout his life to discuss matters of architecture. Goldsmith’s children, Marc Goldsmith and Chandra Goldsmith Gray accepted the award on his behalf.

Victor Tsao (M.S. CS ’80) accepted the third induction award, with Galvin citing Tsao’s ubiquitous work as the cofounder of networking hardware retailer Linksys, along with his wife, Janie Tsao. The two started Linksys out of their garage in Irvine, California, but Tsao made it clear in his acceptance speech that his “hometown will always be Chicago.” Using the knowledge of applications, software, and systems he gained at Illinois Tech, Tsao would lead Linksys to lead the world market wireless and broadband hardware for 15 years. After being bought by Cisco Systems for a stock arrangement valued at $500 million, the Tsaos would continue to remain on the executive team of the new Linksys division until 2007 before shifting to lead the family business, the venture capital firm Miven Venture Partners. In addition, the Tsaos continue to manage the Tsao Family Foundation, currently connecting high schools with local medical centers.

The final induction into the Illinois Tech Hall of Fame was granted to Martin Jischke (PHYS ‘63). While he had a long and successful professional career, Jischke’s true ambition was in education, beginning as the first in his family to attend university as an undergraduate at Illinois Tech. Unsure of where to go other than a general field, Jischke’s career began when his advisor simply told him “well, physics is general.” Jischke’s Illinois Tech education, a living embodiment of the Million Dollar Sermon that created this institution, fully convinced him of the transformative power of education and his desire to be a leader in it.

To that end, he would go on to lead three different universities and one education and research consortium throughout his life. His educational career began as a tenured professor at the University of Oklahoma, where he eventually became interim president from 1985 to 1986. He then went on to serve as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Rolla (Missouri University of Science and Technology) from 1986 to 1991 before he became president of Iowa State University until 2000. He then became the 10th president of Purdue University until his retirement in 2007. Jischke’s acceptance speech referred back to the original Million Dollar Sermon that created Illinois Tech and how for thousands of students, the value of an education is what truly lets them live out their dreams, a process he was grateful to be a part of.

In closing, Galvin shared his vision of this evening as a reminder “of our rich heritage as we look to the future.” While the university already has a long and storied list of distinguished members in its Hall of Fame, this list will only ever continue to grow.

The full list of members of the Illinois Tech Hall of Fame, with full bios of each member, can be found online at https://web.iit.edu/about/history/hall-of-fame.

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