Administrative Assistant to the Head of the
Pam Mow has been giving back to the community — on Purdue's West Lafayette campus and in Lafayette-West Lafayette — for more than 20 years.
Mow, the administrative assistant to the head of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, has worked at Purdue since 1992, and in that time she has served as a mentor to the office's staff members. Mow also has become well known in Lafayette-West Lafayette through her work with the state and local chapters of the Gold Star Mothers. Her efforts have included organizing and leading Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., for World War II and Korean War veterans.
What are your daily job duties at Purdue?
As the department head's administrative assistant, I have a wide variety of duties. I serve as the faculty's go-to person when they're looking for space for themselves or for the department's postdoctoral researchers. I also schedule the department's classes, and because our department is relatively small, I get to know our faculty and many of our students on a first-name basis.
It's important to me that our faculty and students view our department as a small community. We have 40 undergraduate students, 45 graduate students and 30 faculty members, and I want them all to know that our office has an open-door policy. To help everyone feel at home, I make sure everyone in our department — including all the students — gets a birthday card. We also have a coffee lounge, where our department's members can relax. So, we're here at a Big Ten university, but we do everything we can to make our department members feel like they're in a small, hometown community.
What other ways do you help build community locally?
I'm very involved with Gold Star Mothers, which is a nationwide organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in military service. I became active in this organization in 2007, after my son, Cody Putman, was killed in Iraq. I'm president of the Indiana Gold Star Mothers and secretary of the Lafayette Gold Star Mothers, so I'm very involved in activities to support parents of soldiers who have died while serving in the military.
One of the service projects I started through Lafayette Gold Star Mothers involves our participation in the Honor Flight Network, which through donations takes local World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington, D.C., to see those wars' memorials, among other sights. We began taking veterans to D.C. in April 2012, and since then we've included more than 300 veterans in four trips. We have three trips planned for later this year. This is a great way to honor these veterans' service, which many of us can't even begin to imagine.
How is the Purdue community involved in your Honor Flight work?
The Purdue community has just been so supportive ever since I started this program. For starters, we use the Purdue Airport for our chartered flights, and members of Purdue's marching band and Purdue Pete often greet our veterans when they leave and return. Purdue staff members also have been very generous in supporting the honors flights monetarily — for each flight we have to raise $65,000, so every little bit helps.
We've also had veterans with Purdue connections travel on our trips, both as volunteers and as veterans. For example, last September we took Ralph Green, professor emeritus of botany and plant pathology and World War II veteran, on one of our flights.
How are you beginning to work with other military and veterans' groups on campus?
I'm starting to become introduced to several Purdue groups, including the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI), Purdue's ROTC departments and Purdue Student Veterans. We're exploring ways we can all help each other, since we're all doing similar work. For example, Purdue Student Veterans will hold a fundraiser in August to benefit wounded warriors, and we're exploring how the Gold Star Mothers group might be able to help.
In the future, I'd like to become more involved in other campus military and veterans organizations, because I want to be able to support local military veterans and their families as much as I can. That's important work that must be done, and I think we can accomplish more if we all work together. Supporting each other in a common cause — to me, that's what the Purdue community spirit is about.