President's Message - October 2009
Greetings Purdue Supporters,
As a women’s career counselor at Purdue and an advisor in aeronautics, aviator Amelia Earhart encouraged her students to “fix their eyes on far horizons” and soar on the wings of their dreams. The year was 1935.
Earhart was drawn to Purdue by the invitation of President Edward C. Elliott, who sought to attract more women to the university and encouraged them to study science. In the same year, he also invited Lillian Gilbreth, the mother of modern management and pioneer of industrial management techniques, to become the first female professor of engineering. Both women were living proof that dreams — especially those in traditionally male disciplines — could come true.
In 2009, Purdue continues to set students soaring on the wings of their dreams and to facilitate the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Our commitment to launching tomorrow’s leaders begins with the determination to ensure student success. As such, an infrastructure is firmly in place to help female students realize their potential.
Support comes from the Women in Engineering Program, which is one of the oldest programs of its type in the country; the Women in Science Program; and the Technology Diversity Program. The College of Technology, in fact, has been recognized for awarding more engineering technology degrees to women than any other university or college in the country. This achievement is matched by another record: Purdue has granted more degrees to women in engineering than any university in the country. Leah Jamieson, dean of Engineering, was one of the first women to lead IEEE.
External support has helped Purdue establish leading programs such as the Purdue ADVANCE Institutional Transformation project, which positions Purdue to become a national model for increasing the participation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers. The $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation includes support for the new Center for Faculty Success, which will provide targeted research, programs and university-level coordination not only to attract more women, but also to help them succeed. What is learned will be shared with other institutions across the nation.
By encouraging the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, we are inspiring future generations to feed their pioneering spirit of inquiry, to innovate, and to take flight into the unknown, much as Amelia Earhart did about 75 years ago. Before she was a pilot, in fact, Earhart was a student of science in the pre-medical program at Columbia University. The desire to explore new frontiers was surely inborn.
Love for exploration and flight drives our Purdue astronauts, too. Recently, Andrew Feustel (BS ’89 earth sciences, MS ’91, geophysics), who flew in last spring’s space shuttle mission, returned to campus to help inspire these new generations of students during Celebration Week 2009. In addition to a public lecture, he thrilled 150 local fourth-graders with photos and an up-close discussion of his experiences in space.
Our current aviation students are now enjoying the benefits of the recently opened Niswonger Aviation Technology Building and soon will have new aircraft with which to explore those frontiers. Purdue's Board of Trustees recently approved the purchase of 17 new aircraft for the aviation program — one Embraer jet and 16 Cirrus single engine planes. The new aircraft would surely seem a technical wonder to Earhart, whose own plane, dubbed “The Flying Laboratory,” would seem primitive in comparison. Earhart knew the hazards of her chosen pursuit. Her courage is an inspiration to Purdue’s female pilots like Juliana Lindner and several other female students in Purdue’s Aviation Technology program who hope to combine their love for flight with a career in the aviation industry.
Purdue's contributions to flight history are treasured. We are extremely proud that we house the archives for the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, the world's largest compilation of papers, memorabilia and artifacts related to the late aviator; and "Purdue's Place in Space: From the Midwest to the Moon," an 136-item exhibit featuring mementos, artifacts and personal papers from Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan and other Purdue astronaut alumni. Both collections are available online.
I think Amelia would be very pleased today to know that the campus she loved so dearly continues not only to nurture young pilots and support the future of aviation through our School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Aviation Technology Program, but to instill students with the desire to make profound scientific, technological, social, and humanitarian impact on advancing societal prosperity and quality of life.
With the Oct. 23 release of the Mira Nair film “Amelia,” the world will get a glimpse of one of our great campus mentors. We join in the celebration of her life and the dynamic spirit of discovery she shared with students years ago. It is, indeed, alive and well at Purdue.
France A. Córdova