Honorary Degrees

Maurice Cox

Honorary Doctor of Architecture, honoris causa

Maurice Cox

Maurice Cox is an unwavering champion for the betterment of cities and their communities.

His story began in one of the world’s biggest metropolises: New York City, where he was born and received an architecture degree from The Cooper Union. His early career included 10 years working as a professor at Syracuse University in Florence, Italy, and as an architect alongside his wife, Giovanna Galfione. Upon returning to the United States, he was a professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture while also serving for eight years in local government in Charlottesville, first as a city councilor, and then as mayor. With his leadership and successful implementation of planning initiatives, Charlottesville became consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the U.S.

From there, Cox served in Washington, D.C., as design director of the National Endowment for the Arts under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama before returning to academia at Tulane University as the associate dean for community engagement and director of the Small Center for Collaborative Design.

Cox then took on the role of planning director for the city of Detroit, prior to being named as Chicago’s Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development. Here in Chicago, Cox initiated and oversaw a major commitment to rebuilding neighborhoods. The Invest South/West Program addresses the imbalance of resources in the city’s neighborhoods by prioritizing investment in historically disinvested communities. With more than a billion dollars in public funding, this initiative seeks to rebuild neglected commercial corridors to better support their adjacent residential neighborhoods. More recently he designed The Come Home Program, an initiative designed to bring departed residents back into city neighborhoods. And LaSalle Street Re-Imagined was initiated to convert LaSalle Street office buildings into more than 1,000 residential units, a third of which are reserved as affordable.

DesignIntelligence has recognized Cox as one of the “most admired design educators in America,” and Fast Company magazine lauded him as one of “20 Masters of Design” in the U.S. He is a recipient of the Henry Hope Reed Award, which is given to an individual working outside the practice of architecture who has supported the cultivation of the traditional city, its architecture, and art. He was also inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

David C. Hovey Sr. (ARCH ’67, M.S. ’71) 

Honorary Doctor of Architecture, honoris causa

David Hovey Sr.

David C. Hovey Sr. is chief executive officer of Optima, Inc. He founded Optima in 1978 with the goal to reinvent multifamily residential housing by optimizing development, design, and construction within a single company.

In Optima’s more than 46 years, Hovey has been responsible for the design and construction of more than 7,000 condominium and apartment units across the metropolitan Chicago; Phoenix; and Scottsdale, Arizona, areas.

Hovey’s recent notable projects in Illinois include Optima Verdana, a mixed-use, 100-unit luxury apartment building in Wilmette; Optima Lakeview, a mixed-use, 7-story, 198-unit luxury apartment building in  Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood; Optima Signature, a mixed-use, 57-story, 490-unit luxury apartment tower with more than 60,000 square feet of  commercial space and an acre and a half of amenity space in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood; Optima Chicago Center, a 42-story, 325-unit  apartment tower in Streeterville; Optima Old Orchard Woods, a 668-unit luxury condominium and rental community consisting of three interconnected 20-story towers in Skokie; and Optima Horizons, a 16-story, 248-unit luxury condominium tower with retail and commercial space in downtown Evanston. In Arizona, his work includes Optima Kierland Center, a 5-tower, 954-unit condominium and apartment development in Scottsdale; Optima Sonoran Village, a mixed-use, 768-unit luxury apartment community in Scottsdale; Optima Biltmore Towers, a 230-unit luxury condominium building in Phoenix; and Optima Camelview Village, a 700-unit luxury condominium development in Scottsdale.

He was awarded both his Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Science in Architecture from Illinois Institute of Technology. Hovey returned to the architecture program at his alma mater as an associate professor, a position he held for more than 35 years.

Hovey is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, the highest membership honor for AIA members. His work has earned numerous awards for excellence in architecture, planning, and green design, and has been presented in two published works, The Nature of Dwellings: The Architecture of David Hovey by Cheryl Kent, published in 2004, and David Hovey by Cheryl Kent, Helmut Jahn, and Alex Marshall, published in 2022.

Jenny Just

Honorary Doctor of Business, honoris causa

Jenny Just

Jenny Just is a visionary, powerhouse, and one of the few self-made female billionaires in the United States. From the days of cutting her teeth on the trading floor in Chicago to now running a fintech empire, she has started and/or turned around more than 15 companies.

Just co-founded PEAK6 in 1997 with $1.5 million in seed capital as a proprietary options trading firm and since then has grown it into a multibillion-dollar financial services and technology giant housing the next generation of products and service brands. These include PEAK6 Capital Management, PEAK6 Strategic Capital, Apex Fintech Solutions, PEAK6 InsurTech, and Zogo.

With a true knack for unearthing talent and opportunities, Just looks for underfunded and underappreciated sectors to transform into high-growth businesses. Her passion specifically lies in finding opportunities for women to succeed at every table—from the classroom, to the conference room, to the poker room, to the boardroom.

This passion led her to launch Poker Power in 2020 with her daughter Juliette, a woman-led company that teaches poker to all who identify as female, and by extension, teaches women strategic thinking, capital allocation, and decision-making skills. Additionally, Just has created programs to help women advance their careers, including the Women’s Trading Experience and Women’s Technology Experience. She currently serves on the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Just’s remarkable success has earned her a number of accolades, including being named to Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, Forbes 50 over 50, and Worth’s Groundbreaking Women. She was also the recipient of the Women’s Poker Association’s Industry Innovation Recognition Award and received a Tony Award for her involvement in Memphis the Musical.

Nathaniel “Nate” Thomas

Honorary Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa

Nate Thomas

Nathaniel “Nate” Thomas was a trailblazer at Illinois Tech who helped to further and ensure a stronger and more inclusive university community for all. During his 22 years at Illinois Tech, he held a number of executive positions and was instrumental in helping the university expand outreach, recruitment, and campus services to African-American and Hispanic students from Chicago and across the nation.

Thomas came to Illinois Tech in 1965 while still a student at Roosevelt University, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees. He also earned a Ph.D in higher education administration from LaSalle University. In 1973 he was named assistant director of co-op education and was focused on recruiting and supporting students from communities underrepresented within the STEM fields. His efforts resulted in a 433 percent increase in underrepresented students at Illinois Tech in his first year alone. In 1974 Thomas established the Early Identification Program for minority recruitment at the university, with the goal of providing access and support to young aspiring engineers, computer scientists, architects, and medical experts from diverse backgrounds. Thanks to his innovative vision and approach to recruitment, he was named director of admission that same year.

After serving as the executive director for the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the Midwest Programs for Minorities in Engineering from 1977 to 1980, Thomas returned to Illinois Tech to serve as head of minority affairs, further expanding technical and scientific educational opportunities within African-American communities in Chicago. He retired from the university as assistant vice president of external affairs in 1988.

In June 2009 members of the newly formed Illinois Tech African American Alumni Association, or 4A—among them Fortune 500 senior staff engineers, business professionals, attorneys, ministers, teachers, a Broadway entertainer, and a commercial artist—held a weekend tribute to honor Thomas for his influence in their lives. In 2015, 4A leaders established the Nate Thomas Legacy Scholarship fund in recognition of his work and the immeasurable impact that he has had on the university community. Also, in 1983, the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering recognized Thomas with the Reginald H. Jones Distinguished Service Award, which “was created to recognize those extraordinary individuals whose efforts and accomplishments have resulted in increased minority participation in the nation’s engineering workforce.”