RIT's Inventive Alumni

Illustration by Meya Goel

RIT touts itself as home to innovation, but does it really stand up to this? Well, if one were to take a look at some of the university’s noted alumni, they may be inclined to agree.

While the list of RIT alumni is long and filled with success, a few inventive individuals stand out. These include Steve Capps (‘80), Steven Van Slyke (‘88), and Elan Lee (‘98).

Steve Capps

Apple aficionados are likely to be familiar with Steve Capps. Capps, who acquired a Bachelor of Science from RIT, went on to be a defining force during Apple’s early development.

Capps is responsible for co-designing the Finder feature found on Macs even into the modern day, as well as much of the Mac’s GUI — its graphical user interface. In fact, many modern GUIs across multiple platforms and companies owe much of their design success and intuitiveness to the original Mac GUI.

Without Capps’s contributions, it’s likely that all of our computing experiences would be drastically different, whether you use Apple, Windows, Linux or anything else. To honor these contributions, Capps was named an Apple Fellow in 1994.

Outside of Apple, Capps also contributed heavily to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. As a user interface architect for Microsoft, Capps pioneered many of the utility panes found in Internet Explorer, including History and Favorites, as well as the Search feature.

Steven Van Slyke

Our electronics owe much of their graphics quality to Steven Van Slyke, who graduated with a master's degree in Materials Science from RIT. In 1987, while working for Eastman Kodak, Van Slyke and his colleague Ching W. Tang authored a paper describing one of their recent inventions.

This invention was the organic light-emitting diode — the OLED display. Originally developed for Kodak cameras, OLED displays can now be found in phones, laptops, TVs and much more.

Van Slyke was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2013, alongside Tang, and the two were in the running for a Nobel Prize in 2014.

Since leaving Kodak in 2010, Van Slyke has served as Chief Technology Officer for OLED startup Kateeva. He's a prime example of RIT's merging of science and technology.

Elan Lee

RIT also boasts creatives like Elan Lee. Lee, who graduated RIT with a bachelor's in computer science, focused heavily on entertainment and gaming throughout his career.

He's worked with big game studios, including serving as Chief Design Officer for Xbox Entertainment Studios. Lee’s crowning achievement, however, came in 2015. That was the year he launched the hit card game, Exploding Kittens.

Lee noted that one of the highlights of his career was waiting in an airport for a delayed flight. Everyone was frustrated and impatient, except for a group of kids playing a game.

“When I walked over, they were playing Exploding Kittens,” Lee told RIT earlier this year.

RIT is home to many enterprising and inventive individuals. There’s no telling how the next generation of RIT graduates will impact the global community.