History

The College of Commerce and Industry started out in 1974 as an undergraduate organization focusing on business issues. Then it was known as the Programmatic College of Commerce and Industry and was a nonresidential college created through the efforts of various fraternity and sorority members. Early activities rotated among the Greek houses until the college was reorganized in 1982 as the undergraduate Business Forum.

The first building dedicated to a Residential College of Commerce and Industry officially opened on the south campus in 1984, at 1838 Chicago Avenue. In 1991, the college benefited from construction of new facilities it currently occupies on north campus. In the fall of 1995, the college building was renamed to honor Thomas G. Ayers, former chairman of the Northwestern University board of trustees (1975-1986) and a prominent business and civic leader in Chicago.

The college continues to serve as a magnet for experiential learning in business on the Northwestern University campus.

Thomas G. Ayers (1915-2007)

Born in Detroit in 1915, Thomas G. Ayers received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1937 and joined a subsidiary of Commonwealth Edison in 1938. He became president of Commonwealth Edison in 1963 and served as its chief executive officer and president from 1973 to 1980.

A long-time civic and business leader, Mr. Ayers served as chairman of the Metropolitan Crusade of Mercy, president of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry and a member of the boards of the Chicago Symphony and Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center. He served as chairman of the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities and was honored as the 1973 “Man of the Year” by the Chicago Urban League. He also served on the board of directors of G.D. Searle & Co., Sears Roebuck & Co., Zenith Corp., Northwest Industries, First National Bank of Chicago and Tribune Co.

Mr. Ayers became a member of the Northwestern Board of Trustees in 1966 and served as chairman from 1975 to 1986. He became a Life Trustee in 1987 and, in recognition of his service to the University, the residence hall at 2324 Campus Drive was renamed the Ayers Residential College of Commerce and Industry. During his tenure as chairman of the board, he was instrumental in the success of several fund-raising campaigns, the expansion of undergraduate housing, funding for deferred maintenance of the physical plant and strengthening of athletic programs.

Mr. Ayers was awarded an honorary doctorate by Northwestern University School of Law in 1986. He also received honorary degrees from DePaul University and Elmhurst College.