Andy Hirsch is the academic equivalent of a pentathlete, though he’s too modest to admit it. In his 34-year career at Purdue, the professor of physics has taught, done research, developed courses, served as department head and even helped develop a model of how middle-school students learn science.
“I believe that every three years or so you need to do something new to reinvigorate your enthusiasm,” says Hirsch, who earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Purdue has allowed me to do that, so I’ve been able to develop in different directions.” When the Department of Physics celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004, it had no endowed professorships — a critical tool for recruiting top scholars. So Hirsch and department head Nick Giordano had the idea to create the Centennial Physics Faculty Endowment. Hirsch established a will provision to help fund the endowment and has helped persuade other colleagues to donate as well. The goal is to build up enough income to fund one endowed professorship. “The endowment is a way to give back to Purdue, which has produced a lot of great people, a lot of great physicists,” Hirsch says. “Institutions of learning are very important. I know that because I’ve seen repeatedly the impact that education has.”