Commencement Speaker

John P. Calamos Sr. (ECON ’63/M.B.A. ’70)

Founder, chairman, and global chief investment officer, Calamos Investments

John P. Calamos Sr.

John Calamos is chairman and global chief investment officer of Calamos Investments, the firm he founded in 1977. With origins as an institutional convertible bond manager, Calamos Investments has grown into a global asset management firm with institutional and individual clients worldwide. Headquartered in Naperville, Illinois, the firm also has offices in New York, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and the Miami area. 

Calamos established research and investment processes centered around a team-based approach designed to deliver superior risk-adjusted performance over full market cycles through a range of United States and global investment solutions including equity, fixed income, convertible, and alternative strategies. As a pioneer in convertible securities, Calamos launched one of the first convertible funds in 1985 as a way to manage risk for clients in volatile times. He also established one of the first liquid alternative funds in 1990, reflecting a focus on innovation that continues to this day. Calamos has built a reputation for using investment techniques to control risk, preserve capital, and build wealth for clients over the long term.

With more than 50 years of industry experience, he is often quoted as an authority on risk-managed investment strategies, markets, and the economy. He is a frequent speaker at investment conferences around the world and appears regularly on CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and Fox Business Channel. He has authored two books, Investing in Convertible Securities: Your Complete Guide to the Risks and Rewards and Convertible Securities: The Latest Instruments, Portfolio Strategies, and Valuation Analysis.

Prior to entering the investment industry, Calamos served in the U.S. Air Force. During the Vietnam War, he served as a forward air controller, with responsibilities for guiding accurate air strikes and preventing injuries to friendly troops. His squadron was the first to fly the Cessna O-2, an aircraft in which he recorded more than 400 missions in combat. Calamos was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight under heavy hostile attack.” His Air Force career included five years of active duty flying B-52 bombers and 12 years in the reserves flying A-37 jet fighters. He retired as a major.

The son of Greek immigrants, Calamos is an active philanthropist supporting educational institutions and Hellenic organizations. He serves as chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago. He is an investment committee member of the Faith Endowment, and a supporting member of the National Hellenic Society, Leadership 100, and the Hellenic Initiative.

In addition to receiving many awards for his accomplishments as an entrepreneur, he has been honored for his lifetime philanthropic contributions by organizations including the Panarcadian Federation of America and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association. He was inducted as an archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle in 2015. Calamos was the first Vietnam veteran to receive the Jaharis Service Award from the Washington Oxi Day Foundation. In his honor, the foundation established the Calamos Service Award to specifically recognize a Vietnam veteran every year.

Calamos received a B.A. in economics and an M.B.A. in finance from Illinois Institute of Technology, where he has established endowed chairs in philosophy and business and is also a member of the Board of Trustees. He received an honorary doctorate in humanities from Hellenic College Holy Cross.

Student Speakers

Nashita Syeda

Candidate for the Degrees of Bachelor of Science in Biology and Bachelor of Science in Psychological Science

Nashita Syeda

Psychology has always sparked excitement in Nashita Syeda; she is fascinated by how the brain grows and develops. Before high school graduation she set her mind on enrolling in the best university biology and psychology program with a pre-med path, thinking she would follow her family members down a medical path.

But plans changed. Sitting in commuter traffic her second year at Illinois Tech, Syeda realized the pre-med path wasn’t the future she wanted. Instead, she was more interested in a different direction that her degree program could take her, specifically, in child psychology and research, saying she was “amazed at how their little minds and brains become [those of] functional adults.”

Syeda’s capstone project was in child developmental psychology, and she wants to pursue her research through graduate school. She has applied to several programs across the country, although she has options to work in a more clinical setting if she isn’t accepted into a program this year. 

As a commuter student from the Chicago suburbs, Syeda initially hadn’t planned to build a bustling social life and had thought she would approach college as an education only. But before she knew it, she says, she realized there was more to Illinois Tech than courses and began building a friend group. She now attends the Women in STEM student organization meetings.

Syeda was on the Dean’s List nearly every year of her Illinois Tech journey. Her student team won first place in the Community Lab portion of the fall 2021 Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program Innovation Day after successfully presenting a marketing plan to the owners of a Bronzeville neighborhood ice cream shop. She was also a Martin Cooper Endowed Scholar.

She has volunteered or worked at several child-focused therapy facilities since 2018. Currently, she works at BY YOUR SIDE – Autism Therapy Services as a behavior technician, where she uses applied behavior analysis to help children on the autism spectrum reach social, academic, and developmental goals. She is also a volunteer reader at John B. Drake Elementary School.

Henry White

Candidate for the Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and Master of Public Policy and Administration

Henry White

Growing up in rural Colorado taught Henry White the importance of a tight-knit community. After graduating high school with a class of 20 students, he wanted to move to an urban area while holding on to that sense of community. 

White chose aerospace engineering—“I can’t imagine anything cooler than making things fly”—and also signed up for the public policy and administration master’s program. He wanted to drive strategic goal-making decisions in the aerospace business or interface with government agencies, and these two degrees, part of university’s Accelerated Master’s Program, will help him achieve that goal, he says.

Many Illinois Tech students owe White thanks, as he has consistently worked to help his peers through campus organizations, including the Academic Resource Center and Office of Campus Life. “I found out that my best self is when I can help fellow students,” White says.

Much of White’s college career can be summed up in three words: Sigma Phi Epsilon. “A lot of the lessons I learned at Illinois Tech were best exemplified in that environment. It’s where I discovered what to get out of college.”

While serving in student government during his first year, he learned that the fraternity’s main office wanted to revive the local fraternity chapter. White became instrumental in creating a three-year strategic plan to recharter the organization. He served as president in addition to spending time in student government, serving two years on the Student Government Association’s executive board.

He earned the Talon Award for Greek Leader of the Year in 2021 due to his strong ties with SigEp. He was on the Dean’s List nearly every year of his college career. He was also a Duchossois Leadership Scholar.

His passion for Sigma Phi Epsilon caught the attention of the fraternity’s national leaders, who offered White his first job after graduation. He will spend a year traveling the country consulting with dozens of local fraternity chapters. He plans to use this as a springboard toward a consulting role with a firm specializing in aerospace and government consulting.