This prestigious award got its start in 1903 at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Students at this University claimed only an engineer could have accomplished such a great feat as driving the snakes from Ireland, and so, St. Patrick must have been an engineer. St. Patrick’s Day was declared a day to celebrate engineering and St. Patrick became a symbol of honor and achievement among engineering students.

In 1950, the tradition of the Knights made its first appearance at the University of Illinois. It is an annual award presented by the College of Engineering to approximately 8 to 15 students who represent leadership, excellence in character, and exceptional contribution to the College of Engineering and its students. The award is one of the highest honors received by a student from the College of Engineering.