Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

IMSA Fund Receives $1 Million Gift From Harris Family Foundation

The IMSA Fund for Advancement of Education has received a $1 million pledge to its endowment from the Harris Family Foundation of Chicago, Illinois. The gift will promote and advance future innovations at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA). 

"This gift, the largest donation to the IMSA Fund in its history, deepens a longstanding special relationship between IMSA and the Harris Family, beginning with the late Neison and Bette Harris and continuing with second generation family members,” said IMSA President Dr. Glenn W. “Max” McGee. “We are so very grateful for their generosity, and I can think of no better way to celebrate IMSA’s 25th anniversary year than to recognize these extraordinary private sector partners for their steadfast support of IMSA, unparalleled commitment to excellence over more than two decades, and the bright future they are helping us create in pursuing our mission of igniting and nurturing creative, ethical, scientific minds.”
Designated for the Stephanie Pace Marshall Endowment to Ignite Innovation, named in honor of IMSA’s founding president and president emerita, the donation eventually will provide annual funding to nurture, support and accelerate the innovation culture and ecosystem of IMSA. This fund will invest in transformative innovations in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development and digital learning technologies. It also will enable students, staff and partners to design, develop, prototype and evaluate new systems, processes, products and services to enhance the way people learn, live and work. 

The Harris Family Foundation previously made major gifts to support several of IMSA’s innovative programs for students and teachers, beginning with Problem-Based Learning and extending to the IMSA Great Minds Program® and IMSA FUSION (formerly known as IMSA Excellence 2000+). In 2002 the IMSA Board of Trustees named “Harris Hall” in honor of Bette and Neison Harris for “their generous spirit and unparalleled commitment to the students, teachers, and People of Illinois.” King Harris, their son, participated in the dedication in honor of his parents and reflects now on the importance of carrying on the work they were so passionate about.

“Our relationship with IMSA grew out of our parents’ passion and deep commitment to improving the lives of others through providing exemplary learning opportunities,” said Harris, a prominent Chicago business and civic leader and philanthropist. “For years, our belief and investment in IMSA has enriched the lives of thousands of young men and women in Illinois and empowered teachers with substantive, meaningful professional development. Our family is proud to continue this legacy so that future generations may benefit from this extraordinary institution.”

Marshall, who now serves as an IMSA Fund director, once called Neison and Bette Harris “natural partners of IMSA” because of their pioneering spirit and willingness to “think outside of the box and to invest in approaches to problems others dismissed.” 

“The Harris Family has always seen the power and possibility of a vision and believed and invested in bold ideas,” Marshall said.  “I am honored that they chose to support the Marshall innovation endowment as their latest gift to the future generations we will serve.” 

Chicago business leader and IMSA Fund President John Hoesley, a Class of 1989 IMSA graduate, noted the importance of this gift in building a viable endowment for IMSA’s future. “A priority is to grow our endowment to at least $5 million during the next several years,” Hoesley said. “Endowed funds are an essential source of funding support for educational institutions like IMSA and will give us much-needed flexibility and agility especially in challenging economic times. This donation gives us a major boost, and on behalf of the board and as a proud alumnus and donor myself, I am inspired by the Harris Family’s vision and generosity.”

McGee added, “The theme of our 25th anniversary year is IMSA, beyond knowledge. The Harris Family has provided IMSA’s students, staff, alumni and partners both the inspiration and resources to go beyond knowledge by using our inquiry based, problem centered educational practices to facilitate students’ discovery of innovative solutions to humanity’s most challenging problems. We deeply appreciate the Harris Family for sharing our vision and demonstrating such a tangible commitment to making a powerful difference.”

To learn more about the IMSA’s 25th anniversary year and the IMSA Fund Board’s priorities for fundraising, including endowment, visit Other giving opportunities can be found here.

The internationally recognized Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy® (IMSA) develops creative, ethical leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As a teaching and learning laboratory created by the State of Illinois, IMSA enrolls academically talented Illinois students (grades 10-12) in its advanced, residential college preparatory program, and it serves thousands of educators and students in Illinois and beyond through innovative instructional programs that foster imagination and inquiry. IMSA also advances education through research, groundbreaking ventures and strategic partnerships. (

For information contact