Honorary Degrees

Richard Conviser

Honorary Doctor of Law, honoris causa

Richard Conviser

Richard Conviser is professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he has taught courses in antitrust, corporations, business associations, and conflicts of laws. Conviser received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, where he served on the Law Review. He also holds a Doctor of Laws (Doktor der Rechte) from the University of Cologne in Germany and is a member of the California and Illinois bars. Conviser was formerly associated with the international law firm of Baker McKenzie. Subsequently, he was appointed by the governor of Illinois to establish its first foreign operation and served as deputy European director of this office in Brussels.

Conviser is the author of numerous publications in several languages and served as editorial director of Gilbert Law Summaries. He is perhaps best known as co-founder of BARBRI, which has helped more than 1.7 million lawyers around the world pass a United States bar exam since its founding in the late 1960s; Conviser was in his mid-20s when he started the small bar exam review while working as an associate at Baker McKenzie.

Conviser joined the faculty of Chicago-Kent in the early 1970s. A mentor to many of his former students to this day, Conviser established the Conviser Scholars program to preserve this legacy. In recognition of his dedication and service to Chicago-Kent and the legal community, Illinois Tech’s downtown campus, located at 565 West Adams Street, was renamed the Conviser Law Center in February 2020. As a legal educator, philanthropist and the largest donor to the law school, Conviser is deeply committed to student success and enhancing the reputation of Chicago-Kent.

Edward “Ed” L. Kaplan (ME ’65)

Honorary Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa

Edward “Ed” L. Kaplan

Edward “Ed” L. Kaplan (ME ’65) is president of Nalpak, Inc., a private investment firm. He retired in 2007 as the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Zebra Technologies. Because of his leadership, Zebra Technologies became a multi-billion dollar business and the global leader in providing bar code labeling and plastic card printing solutions.

Kaplan began his career as a project engineer for Seeburg Corp. and later joined Teletype Corp. as a mechanical engineer who performed research and development in the printer division. He has been a member of the Illinois Tech Board of Trustees since 1993.

In 2014 Kaplan, along with his wife, Carol, made a gift of $11 million to establish the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at Illinois Tech, the first new academic building on the university’s Mies Campus in more than 40 years. As a member of the Kaplan Institute Board of Advisors, Kaplan continues to offer his visionary expertise on initiatives and strategy to support the institute as a multidisciplinary hub for discovery, innovation, and business creation. Most recently, Kaplan committed $5 million to establish the Kaplan Family Student Fabrication Center to provide a unique learning experience for today’s students.

In recognition of his extraordinary leadership and service, Kaplan received Illinois Tech’s Award of Merit in 2000 and the Alumni Medal in 2011, and in 2021 was recognized with the Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honor Society) Distinguished Alumnus Award. As a student, he was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Kaplan serves on the boards of the Museum of Science and Industry and Hyde Park Angels.

Jeanne M. Rowe

Honorary Doctor of Social Science, honoris causa

Jeanne M. Rowe

Jeanne M. Rowe has a deep commitment to education, specifically in regard to STEM fields—and particularly for women and girls in STEM. The most visible civic commitments made by Jeanne and her late husband, John W. Rowe, are the Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy and the Rowe Elementary and Middle School, charter schools with a visionary approach to fostering educational success. Jeanne and John co-founded both public charter schools, and both have served as volunteer mentors at each of the schools. Jeanne and John also served as patrons of the Pope John Paul II Catholic School. Jeanne has tutored children at Pope John Paul II Catholic School, Rowe Elementary and Middle School, and New Horizons of Southwest Florida in Naples, Florida. Additionally, Jeanne has served as the guiding spirit of the “Girl Talk” seminar at Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy.

Jeanne believes in both the results and rewards of working directly with the children and young adults at all of these schools, and has made it her mission to work with kids. Jeanne is also a substantial supporter of several universities and museums, which includes sponsoring three chairs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (John’s alma mater), one at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and one at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.

The Rowes have also established three endowed chairs at Illinois Tech: the John and Jeanne Rowe Endowed Chair in the College of Architecture, the Rowe Family College of Architecture Dean Endowed Chair, and the Rowe Family Endowed Chair in Sustainable Energy.

Together with John, Jeanne has been recognized for her civic and professional leadership. In 2013 she and John were presented with the Chicago History Museum’s Bertha Honoré Palmer Making History Award for Distinction in Civic Leadership. Jeanne and John were also named the Chicago Humanities Festival 2014 Humanists of the Year. Most recently, Jeanne was named Illinois Tech’s fifth Adopted Hawk, a status granted to select non-alumni individuals who have become essential members of the university community through their actions in support of Illinois Tech.

Elizabeth “Liz” Thompson

Honorary Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa

Elizabeth “Liz” Thompson

As president of the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education Group (the CAFE Group), Elizabeth “Liz” Thompson is deeply engaged in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities. The CAFE Group provides financial and programmatic support to leaders of color whose proximity to current and historic challenges in education allows them to influence philanthropic decisions and create meaningful and relevant solutions. By leveraging lived experiences and the genius within our communities, the CAFE Group creates a glidepath from college intern to established leader that is designed to catalyze lasting systemic change.

Thompson began working with nonprofits in 1993 as founding executive director of City Year Chicago, a national service organization that was the template for the AmeriCorps Program. Then in 1995, Thompson served as executive director of Family Star Montessori School in Denver, where she led a multi-million dollar expansion of its early head start program. In 1998, she became active with nonprofit boards in the San Diego area, which further fueled her interest in philanthropy and education. Before following her passion in the nonprofit sector, Thompson had a successful 10-year career with Ameritech Corporation after receiving an electrical engineering degree from Purdue University.

In addition to her commitment to serving students, professionals, and communities, Thompson and her husband, Don Thompson, are co-founders of the investment firm Cleveland Avenue, LLC. The firm provides financial resources, expertise, and individual support to entrepreneurs to grow and scale their businesses. Their collective work was highlighted by World Business Chicago through its Corporate Ambassador Award and by Loyola University Chicago’s Baumhart Center with its Innovator Award for Social Impact.

Liz is currently a director for the Lamar Advertising Corporation and a director for Chicago Public Media/WBEZ. She is a national director for Braven and chair of Braven’s Chicago Board. She serves on the board of the Partnership for College Completion and as a special adviser to OneGoal.

Liz is an alumna of the Nonprofit Leadership Program of Denver and Leadership Greater Chicago, where she served on its board for 10 years. Liz is a past trustee of the University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Most recently, Liz joined a distinguished cohort of Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders as a Pahara Education Fellow. She has received Crain’s Chicago Business’s Inaugural Women of Note Award, Chicago Women in Philanthropy’s Making a Difference Award, Chicago Public Media’s Amplifier Award, YWCA Chicago’s Community Leadership Award, the Outstanding Community Leader Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Dream Builders Award from the Chicago Child Care Society, and the John J. Dugan Award from OneGoal. She was featured in Make It Better magazine as one of Chicago’s Top Black Women of Impact. She has appeared as a keynote speaker for the Grantmakers For Education Conference, the Walton Family Foundation, the National Center on Family Philanthropy, the Forefront Annual Luncheon, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, and the Chicago Venture Summit.

Liz has been married to Don for 30 years. They have two adult children and live in the southwest area of metropolitan Chicago.