Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Thompson to Receive Honorary Doctor of Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology

Through her investment firm and nonprofit foundation, Thompson supports and advocates for leaders of color in education and entrepreneurship


Elizabeth "Liz" Thompson

CHICAGO—May 12, 2023—Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech) will award Elizabeth “Liz” Thompson, a dedicated advocate for education and philanthropy, an Honorary Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa. The degree will be conferred at Illinois Tech’s 154th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 13, 2023, at McCormick Place.

“As an engineer, I am honored to receive this Doctor of Engineering from Illinois Tech,” says Thompson. “I am proud to be associated with an institution that shares my passion for empowering all leaders with a strong education and the inspiration to make a difference and have a positive impact on the world around us.”

As president and office director for the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (CAFE) Group, Thompson supports leaders of color in creating meaningful and relevant solutions for educational challenges. She began her work in the nonprofit sector in 1993 as the founding executive director of City Year Chicago, which served as a template for the AmeriCorps Program. Thompson has since held numerous leadership positions in nonprofits and educational institutions, including Family Star Montessori in Denver and various boards in the San Diego area.

“Liz Thompson’s unwavering commitment to improving educational opportunities for all is an inspiration to our entire community,” says Illinois Tech President Raj Echambadi. “Her work in fostering systemic change through philanthropy and her dedication to inspiring leaders of color in education align with Illinois Tech’s mission to advance technology and progress for all. We are proud to honor her with this prestigious award.”

Thompson and her husband, Don Thompson, are co-founders of the food and beverage-focused venture fund Cleveland Avenue, LLC, which supports entrepreneurs in growing and scaling their businesses. They have received numerous accolades for their work, including World Business Chicago’s Corporate Ambassador Award and Loyola University Chicago’s Baumhart Center Innovator Award for Social Impact.

“Liz Thompson’s transformative work in supporting leaders of color and promoting educational equity is a testament to her unyielding dedication to creating lasting change,” says Kevin Cassel, acting dean of Armour College of Engineering. “Her passion for empowering the next generation of engineers and innovators resonates deeply with the values of Armour College and the broader Illinois Tech community.”

Thompson currently serves as a director for the Lamar Advertising Corporation and Chicago Public Media/WBEZ. She is a national director for Braven and chairman of Braven’s Chicago Board. Additionally, she serves on the board of the Partnership for College Completion and as a special adviser to OneGoal. Throughout her career, Thompson has received various awards and recognitions, including receiving the inaugural Crain’s Chicago Business’ Women of Note 2023 spotlight, as a Chicago Women in Philanthropy’s Making a Difference honoree , and as a Chicago Public Media Amplifier Award recipient.

For more information about Illinois Tech’s 154th Commencement ceremony, please visit iit.edu/commencement.

Illinois Institute of Technology

Based in the global metropolis of Chicago, Illinois Tech was born to liberate the collective power of difference to advance technology and progress for all. It is the only tech-focused university in the city, and it stands at the crossroads of exploration and invention, advancing the future of Chicago and the world. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, computing, architecture, business, design, science and human sciences, and law. Illinois Tech students are guaranteed hands-on experiences, personalized mentorship, and job readiness through the university's one-of-a-kind Elevate program. Its graduates lead the state and much of the nation in economic prosperity. Its faculty and alumni built the Chicago skyline. And every day in the living lab of the city, Illinois Tech fuels breakthroughs that change lives. Visit iit.edu.

Media contacts

Petra Kelly
Communications Director
Illinois Institute of Technology
Cell: 773.771.1064

Kevin Dollear
Communications Manager
Illinois Institute of Technology
Cell: 773.860.5712