GE, Purdue partnership takes a step forward

Partners Moving Forward. Purdue President Mitch Daniels and GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt set the stage for a new era of partnerships between industry and academia during a unique talk titled “Meeting Our Challenges: A Conversation.” Photo by Vincent Walter.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels became the University’s interviewer-in-chief during a unique conversation with a man deemed one of the “World’s Best CEOs” three times by the financial magazine Barron’s.

GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt and Daniels sat down Oct. 3 to talk about new models of interaction between industry and academia and specifically how the company and the University can work together on pressing global problems.

The talk, titled “Meeting Our Challenges: A Conversation,” filled Loeb Playhouse in Stewart Center with students, faculty and others. It concluded with a question and answer period from the audience.

GE has been the top employer of Purdue graduates over the past five-year period. Earlier in the day Immelt spent time talking with students, faculty and staff about the importance of the continued partnership between GE and Purdue, which is focused on the education of a global workforce, talent development and continued innovation through research — all themes Daniels and Immelt discussed on stage.

“Businesses have to do more directconnect with universities,” Immelt said, noting that GE planned to establish new, long-term partnerships with universities that are completely aligned in addressing “big themes” and pressing problems. Universities, he added, would need to “elevate” in furthering new models of interaction.

Immelt heaped high praise on Purdue's culture of innate curiosity, hard work, humility and team building. “I tell professors, ‘You're in the product development business like I am.’ And your product is pretty good,” he said.

“Every successful person I've ever met has been a learner, has had a certain sense of humility, has a sense of teamwork and has an incredible sense of the ability to get the most out of themselves and others. That’s what we've seen at Purdue, and that is much appreciated. There is nothing that ever replaces smart and hard working,” he said.

In parting, Immelt announced a $100,000 scholarship to Purdue as a continuation of “a great relationship we’ve had for a long time.” Immelt added: “And there’s more where that came from.”

Pam Ritter, senior director of corporate relations, says that corporations are among the University’s largest contributors through financial support and educational opportunities such as internships, as well as hiring Purdue students. She expects that support will increase as university funding models change and as corporations like GE seek to establish additional relationships for their research and development. Immelt’s visit, Ritter says, is a harbinger of further opportunities.

“Our job in Corporate and Foundation Relations is to take relationships and build them into partnerships to increase investment in Purdue,” she says.

See Websclusives in this issue for a link to the complete Daniels-Immelt conversation.