History of the Beckman Institute

Arnold and Mabel Beckman visit the Beckman Institute, guided by Ted Brown
Arnold and Mabel Beckman visit the Beckman Institute.

The Arnold O. and Mabel M. Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois was conceived early in 1983, when campus administrators decided to assemble a proposal for a unique new venture in multidisciplinary research at the university.

Two faculty committees were subsequently appointed to develop plans for interdisciplinary research thrusts in the engineering and physical sciences, and in the life and behavioral sciences.

The resulting committee reports formed the basis of a proposal submitted to Dr. Arnold O. Beckman in the fall of 1984. Dr. and Mrs. Beckman’s gift of $40 million was announced at the annual meeting of the University of Illinois Foundation in October 1985. The Illinois legislature, in its fall 1985 session, appropriated $10 million toward the costs of the project. In addition, the university and the state of Illinois pledged to support the continued operations and maintenance of the Institute.

The selection of the SmithGroup JJR, a Detroit architectural engineering firm experienced in the design of research facilities, was announced in December 1985. In accordance with the wishes of the Beckmans, who were eager to see the structure completed as expeditiously as possible, planning for the Institute moved forward quickly. The design was accepted in spring 1986, groundbreaking ceremonies occurred in fall 1986, and the building was effectively finished by early spring 1989. Most of the research groups currently housed in the building had moved in by mid-1989.

The following individuals have served as directors of the Beckman Institute:

  • Ted Brown, 1987-1993
  • Jiri Jonas, 1993-2001
  • Pierre Wiltzius, 2001-2008
  • Tamer Basar (Int), 2008-2010
  • Art Kramer, 2010-2016
  • Jeff Moore (Int), 2016-present