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President's Message - March 2010

Dear Purdue family and friends:

In March, the nation celebrates Women’s History Month.

Since the first female students were admitted to the University in 1875, Purdue has prided itself on its support of women in education. Since then, our women students, staff, faculty and alumni have made their impact felt around the world.

Amelia Earhart

We have an impressive legacy of leaders: Motion studies pioneer Lillian Gilbreth. Aviator Amelia Earhart. Astronauts Janice Voss and Mary Ellen Weber. Dorothy Stratton, the University’s first full-time dean of women and founding director of the Women's Reserve of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. Screenwriter Callie Khouri (“Thelma and Louise”), who is also a director. Susan Bulkeley Butler, former Purdue trustee and founder and CEO of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders and an advocate for women and other underrepresented groups. We are grateful for her extraordinary generosity, which has endowed Purdue with scholarships, faculty chairs, a women’s archive, and the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence at Discovery Park.

Maureen McCann

We have women faculty who are making history, including Maureen McCann, who leads the University’s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels. Researchers at the center will work on the energy frontier as they find ways to expand the range of biofuels beyond ethanol. Alyssa Panitch’s tissue engineering research has yielded miraculous scaffold-like materials that can be injected into the body to repair damaged bones, spinal cords, arteries and other tissues. Jayathi Murthy, the Robert V. Adams Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Center for Prediction of Reliability, Integrity and Survivability of Microsystems (PRISM), is leading an effort to develop advanced simulations to predict the behavior of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) devices used in civilian and defense applications. And Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of the Military Family Research Institute, is making a difference in the lives of countless soldiers and their families through her institute’s mission of providing a more complete understanding of the complexities of the military experience and their implications for families and military outcomes.

Monica Cox

We are proud of our female administrators at Purdue, from our vice presidents and deans to vice provosts and associate deans, heads of schools and departments, and center directors. They are providing significant, diverse leadership in moving Purdue forward to the next level of excellence.

We are proud of the young women faculty whose work is transforming disciplines and gaining great recognition. Among them are Monica Cox, whose pioneering work in engineering education was rewarded in 2009 with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Structural biologist Jue Chen, the University’s first Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is undertaking work with membrane proteins that will expand the frontiers of biology and medicine.

These accomplished women are making transformative impact not only as leaders and researchers but also as mentors whose successes encourage future generations of researchers, industry leaders, policymakers, innovators. Through our recent NSF ADVANCE grant, we hope to make institutional transformation for the success of women in the professoriate.

Jung Eun Oh

Our young alumnae, too, are providing inspiration to those around them and to our current students. Jung Eun Oh (PhD ’08, civil engineering) is using her Purdue education to make global impact in the World Bank's prestigious "Young Professionals Program." She now works in the transportation sector’s Europe and Central Asia region. Thiwasha Lee Harper (BS ’96, chemical engineering) is making a difference in world health through her work as a global diabetes platform specialist for Eli Lilly in Indianapolis. You can read about some of the women who inspire our students in this month's "5 Students Who …" feature.

Susan Bulkeley Butler

And we have internationally recognized programs that encourage future generations to engage in the unfolding history of tomorrow. These include the Women in Science Program and the Women in Engineering Program, the first of its kind in the nation when it was founded 40 years ago.

The national theme of this year’s Women’s History Month is “Writing our History,” an effort to ensure that women’s accomplishments get noticed. Purdue is proud to play an active role in making sure some of these accomplishments are well documented and preserved in the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers and in the Susan Bulkeley Butler Women's Archives, which documents the pioneering women who helped shape Purdue and Indiana history.

Women’s History Month may be only one month in the national eye, but it never goes out of season at Purdue. We look forward to writing that story.



France A. Córdova
President, Purdue University