Purdue University came to life on September 16, 1874, when six instructors welcomed 39 students to its first day of classes, forever changing the face of the Lafayette-West Lafayette community. However, the institution's earliest days were filled with the trials and uncertainties of creating a university from the ground up.
In the midst of a bold new vision for American public higher education, President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law on July 2, 1862, offering public lands to any state that would establish and maintain a college for the purpose of teaching agriculture and mechanics.
The Indiana General Assembly took advantage of this offer in 1865 and began plans to establish such an institution. John Purdue, a Lafayette business leader and philanthropist, donated a gift of $150,000, along with $50,000 from Tippecanoe Country and 100 acres of land from Lafayette residents in support of the project. It was founded in 1869 near the city of Lafayette and established as Purdue University, in the name of the institution's principal benefactor, who is buried in front of the oldest building on campus - University Hall.
Once established, it took five years to develop courses, hire faculty, and build a modest cluster of brick buildings on what used to be fields and pastures, and where Kickapoo braves had stalked game long ago. Purdue has come a long way since then, with the West Lafayette campus covering more than 2,400 acres including 163 principal buildings and 383 total buildings among its academic and residential campuses, two golf courses, recreational areas, and Horticulture Park.
Purdue continues to grow and improve each day as it strives for preeminence. Nearly $800 million worth of new construction and renovation is either recently completed, currently under way, or scheduled to occur during the first seven years of the new millennium. Foremost is the development of Discovery Park, where Purdue is becoming a world leader in nanotechnology and biosciences.
Everyday, Purdue fulfills its mission to the state of Indiana. Whether through the Cooperative Extension Service offices it operates in all 92 counties, the eight agricultural research centers that cover the state, or the range of engagement and service-learning programs, Purdue helps teachers, farmers, manufacturers, and business people do their jobs better and work smarter. The sheer size of the Purdue enterprise makes it an economic dynamo, with an estimated annual impact of more than $2.9 billion on Indiana's economy.
Purdue enjoys worldwide acclaim for the quality of its teaching and research in a wide range of fields. On the West Lafayette campus alone, the University offers some 5,600 courses in more than 350 specializations, organized through 12 undergraduate colleges or schools and the Graduate School. Its graduates - including over 392,000 living alumni around the globe - have explored the surface of the moon, quarterbacked SuperBowl championship teams, excelled in a range of corporate, educational, technical and scientific pursuits, and even received a Nobel prize.
Purdue is now one of the 25 largest universities in the nation, having approximately 39,200 students enrolled at the West Lafayette campus, while some 30,000 others pursue degree work at four regional campuses and seven Statewide Technology sites. Over 18,500 people work at Purdue campuses and facilities in Indiana, making the University one of the state's largest employers.
In West Lafayette, Purdue employs more than 15,200 faculty and staff, by far the community's largest employer with the greatest impact. From residents' paychecks to student spending and capital expenditures, Purdue has an estimated annual impact on Tippecanoe County of nearly $1.8 billion.
As an educational, athletic, and entertainment magnet for the northwest part of Indiana, Purdue draws hundreds of thousands of people to the campus and community every year for conferences, workshops, games, and other events.
Purdue athletics is home to 18 Division 1/1-A NCAA teams and is a founding member of the Big Ten Conference. Since the 1890s, Purdue's teams have been known as the "Boilermakers" while "Hail Purdue!" is the fight song.
Purdue is also home to one of the nation's largest Greek communities, having approximately 4,800 students in 46 men's fraternities and 29 women's sororities.
The University features a well-tended campus with its welcoming green spaces - Purdue Mall, Founders Park, Academy Park, and Memorial Mall - as well as spectacular fountains located throughout campus.
Visitors to the campus are invited to stop at the Visitor Information Center, 504 Northwestern Avenue, or the information desk in the Great Hall on the main floor of Purdue Memorial Union, at the corner of State and Grant streets.