History of The Society of Innovators

The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana (The Society) is the largest project of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Community College Northwest. The Society is the first and only organized effort in the 11 regions of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana to celebrate innovators and innovation on a regional basis. The 7 counties of Northwest Indiana are Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski and Starke Counties.

Established in 2005 by Chancellor Emeritus J. Guadalupe Valtierra, The Society was created as part of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center. This was later re-named the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center in 2006. The Center is in honor of President Emeritus Lamkin, whose “40 year journey” was to establish a truly comprehensive community college for Indiana. This Center is unique in the Ivy Tech system in championing the twin pillars of Creativity and Innovation in encouraging students, staff, faculty, administration and our regional community to “think differently” in a global economy.

Through the Lamkin I & E Center, The Society has approximately 350 Individual and Team Members representing all walks of life. The Society is believed to be the only such initiative sponsored by a community college in the United States. The Society believes that Innovation is the lifeblood of our region, state and nation, and that “anyone can be an innovator.”

Innovation: Innovation can be in technical or non-technical areas. Typically, innovation involves creating a fresh solution to a problem and implementing that solution. As most innovation involves solving a problem, the Society defines innovation as solving a problem in a new way. The Society defines innovation as…”thinking creatively and acting in a way that produces something new or different along the Innovation Continuum ™. This is a new tool that The Society invented to demonstrate there are three broad areas of innovation: Sustaining Innovation that renews something, called incremental innovation; Transformational Innovation that creates something – significant innovation; and Disruptive Innovation that revolutionizes something – game-changing Innovation.

Members & Fellows: The Society recognizes innovative individuals and teams, and confers upon them Honorary Lifetime Membership. The Society selects up to six outstanding innovators each year as Fellows from among our Members. The Society can name one of these Fellows for exceptional innovation as the Gerald I. Lamkin Fellow for Innovation & Service to the World. Our Fellows must live or work in Northwest Indiana and their innovation is significant.

The Fellow Awards are sponsored by ArcelorMittal. In the event an educator or administrator in K-12 grades rises to the level of a Fellow, the Center of Workforce Innovations sponsors the Fellow award. Fellows receive a cash prize of $500 plus a plaque. For exceptional innovation, the Gerald I. Lamkin Fellow receives a $1000 cash prize plus a plaque.

The Chanute Prize for Team Innovation: The Society also selects up to two co-recipients annually from among our Team Members to receive the Chanute Prize for Team Innovation. The Chanute Prize is dedicated to promoting 21st century innovation in the private, public, not-for-profit and government sectors. It was created to honor the path-breaking glider flights on our lakeshore by Octave Chanute and his team who helped the Wright Brothers “get off the ground” seven years later.The Chanute Prize is co-sponsored by Krieg DeVault and NIPSCO. The recipient of the Chanute Prize receives a “traveling trophy,” a $500 prize for charity plus a plaque.

Nobel Evening for Northwest Indiana: Held at the Horseshoe Casino Hammond in October, The Annual Awards Induction of The Society is called “The Nobel Evening of Northwest Indiana.” It was so named by Dr. Roy Evans of Purdue University Calumet, a former Chair of The Society of Innovators. At the 9thAnnual Induction, O’Merrial Butchee, Director, Lamkin I & E Center, said, “The reason Dr. Evans coined this name is at this event, we stand in the presence of greatness. If we have a theme, it is the greatness that is within us…it is within our region…it is within ourselves.” Also at this induction, Dr. Richard Sussman, the current Chair of The Society and former General Manager of the ArcelorMittal Global R&D Center, East Chicago, said, “All of our new Members, Fellows and Chanute Prize award winners have been chosen because they have used their talents and persistence to take sometimes very complex ideas and create practical, implementable solutions. These solutions are for new products and social actions that are have improved people’s lives and strengthened the economy of the region.” Horseshoe Casino donates the annual sponsorship for this event.

Nominations & Certificates: Individuals and teams are nominated to The Society of Innovators via online at www.ivytech.edu/northwest. They are selected as Members through a rigorous process by regional leaders based upon different models utilized in the selection process. Each Member receives a personalized Certificate of Membership; Team Member Certificates are sponsored by NIPSCO.

Sponsors: Our Principal Partners are ArcelorMittal, Bukva Imaging, Doherty Images, Horseshoe Casino, Krieg DeVault, NIPSCO, Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly, SMDG LLC; and The Times Media Company. Our Community Partner is The Center for Workforce Innovations.

Our Mission: The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana cultivates creativity and innovation as a growth strategy by discovering, encouraging, celebrating and honoring our most innovative people across our 7 counties.

Our Vision: Northwest Indiana will be known around the world as a region that discovers, encourages, celebrates and honors creativity and innovation.