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Monthly Message - September 2012

Neil Armstrong

Astronaut alumnus Neil Armstrong in 1969.

The beginning of our fall semester is always exciting for our faculty, staff and students; but for the Purdue family this year, it also brings reflection. Late last month, Purdue lost perhaps its most cherished alumnus, astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Neil's historic walk on the moon came fourteen years after he received his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Purdue. He was only the second person in his family to attend college and his humble outlook continued throughout his life. Retreating from the hero title, Neil always praised the thousands of engineers, scientists and other professionals who helped his crew land on the moon and return safely to Earth. Whenever he visited Purdue, the last time in 2011, he spent most of his time talking to students about their plans and encouraging them to pursue careers in science and engineering.

Neil once said that he realized quickly upon arriving at Purdue, that his instructors were not going to just teach him facts and information. He realized that at Purdue, he was going to "learn how to think." What better compliment for an institution of higher education?

Armstrong Memorial

A memorial builds around the statue of Neil Armstrong on campus.

The Purdue community celebrated Neil’s life with a memorial service on August 27. The event was organized and run by members of the Purdue Student Government and I thank them for their leadership. We all know what an inspiration he was to so many, but seeing students, faculty, staff and community members fill the sidewalks near Armstrong Hall that afternoon was truly inspiring. We honor his memory and the integrity with which he lived his life. His spirit reflects brightly on all we do at Purdue and drives us to continue forward.

As we welcome our first-year students, we are dedicated to helping them grow and succeed. Last month, President-elect Mitch Daniels -- who officially begins as Purdue's 12th president in January -- joined me at our Academic Induction Ceremony, where we launched the academic careers of more than 5,200 incoming students.

Dana Smith

Dana Smith, who is majoring in math with a minor in French, is a New Boilermaker.

This month’s "5 Students Who ..." web feature highlights some of these new Boilermakers. Their interests and backgrounds are diverse and impressive and they demonstrate the unique spirit that characterizes Purdue students. I hope you enjoy reading more about them and say “Hello” if you meet them on campus.

I am proud to work alongside our outstanding faculty and staff, as we teach and encourage, and as we show them what Neil Armstrong learned those many years ago -- how to think.

There is a poem by late professor of agricultural economics, Don Paarlberg, that our dean of agriculture, Jay Akridge, shared recently with colleagues. Called "Purdue," the poem ends with a sentiment I think captures what happens every day at our great university.

"To some Purdue is but a place
with grounds and trees and buildings.
To some Purdue is sports,
with teams that win or lose.
To me Purdue is the Great Idea,
the Great Idea that always wins."

Hail Purdue!
Tim Sands

P.S. Boilermaker football has kicked off and I hope you will join us in the stands (and at home) as we cheer on Coach Hope and the team. Boiler Up!