University Regent Al Self and his wife, Lila, founded Illinois Tech’s Leadership Academy in 2000 because they believed in the importance of developing leadership skills in undergraduates. They also believed the program would build a strong sense of community among all Illinois Tech undergraduates, faculty, and staff. The Selfs provided the founding gift to the Leadership Academy, and it continues to annually provide 25 students with full tuition for up to four years of undergraduate study at Illinois Tech. With more than a decade in existence, the Leadership Academy has become a hallmark of the university's excellence. Alumni of the program continue to make the university proud, becoming leaders in their professions and communities.
The Selfs have given more than $15 million to Illinois Tech over the years, establishing a remarkably generous legacy at their adopted alma mater. They care so deeply about leadership development that they have also supported a similar program at their own alma mater, the University of Kansas. The Selfs have said that they were motivated to give to leadership programs because they hope to make a difference in the lives of dedicated and motivated students. The Selfs recognized that when students are empowered with leadership skills, they will ultimately help make a difference in the world. Over the years, Al and Lila remained wonderful friends and advisors to the Illinois Tech Leadership Academy program, and the university is incredibly indebted to them for their generosity and vision.