Between August 12 and November 14, members of my staff and various other faculty, administrators and Trustees accompanied me on visits to eleven Indiana cities where we visited thirty-three different Purdue programs that support our state's people, communities, businesses, farms, and schools.
These sites were merely representative of hundreds of Purdue programs all over the state, and although all of us on the tour are fairly familiar with the breadth and depth of the University's statewide activities, we were amazed at the impact Purdue has on people's lives and on the state's economy. From the steel mills of Lake County to high-tech electronic plants in southern Indiana to the United Airlines maintenance hub in Indianapolis, business leaders told us how much they rely on Purdue's problem-solving expertise and its graduates. Workers told us how they had rejuvenated their careers through educational programs. Farmers talked about saving their family enterprises thanks to Purdue research and management advice. Teachers showed us how they are rescuing at-risk children from lives of failure through programs developed or delivered by Purdue faculty.
A number of local community leaders were with us at each visit, and some members of the General Assembly joined us as well. It took a lot of time and energy to organize the trips and to get to each location, but I think it was well worth the effort for everyone involved. We came away from the experience with a new pride in this institution and its role in the state.
On November 21, Purdue inducted eight new members into its Athletic Hall of Fame. This year's group is the third class elected since the Hall was established in 1994, and I am very pleased with the caliber of people elected, as well as with the events surrounding the inductions. After being inducted at Thursday's dinner, the honorees spent Friday visiting Purdue people and places with special meaning for them. On Saturday, they were recognized during halftime ceremonies of the Old Oaken Bucket football game.
The 1996 class, like its predecessors, includes people who have had outstanding careers as players or coaches, but the selection committee each year has gone beyond those criteria to recognize individuals whose achievements are outside the arena of competition. So the new Hall of Fame members include great sports figures like football and track star Lawrence Burton, quarterback legend Len Dawson, basketball All-American Dave Schellhase, baseball standout Bill Skowron, and coaching genius Hank Stram. But also on the list were the late Fred Hovde, who was recognized for his leadership in Big Ten and NCAA athletics while president of Purdue; the late William "Pinky" Newell, who became nationally known as the Boilermakers' athletic trainer; and John DeCamp, the long-time voice of Purdue athletics as an announcer for Purdue's WBAA radio. Chris Schenkel, the legendary ABC broadcaster who was John's protégé as a student, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1995 but delayed his participation in the ceremonies until this year. Thus, he was able to stand side-by-side with the man he credits with launching his career.
It was a moving moment and one that says a lot about the family spirit at Purdue.
During the same weekend, Purdue football began a new era with the announcement that Joe Tiller will succeed Jim Colletto as head coach. Joe brings a wealth of experience and a highly successful record to the job. He also has established a reputation as a coach who stresses both integrity in his program and the importance of academics for his players. All of these qualities are indispensable for a head coach to be successful at Purdue.
After Jim Colletto announced his resignation in early November, Athletic Director Morgan Burke did a remarkable job of organizing a national search, identifying the best candidates, and screening the applicants. As a result, the new staff will be in place in time for the key recruiting period, and Coach Tiller still will be able to carry out his post-season duties for the University of Wyoming.
It is always difficult when a high-profile sport goes through a coaching change, and this transition will be especially difficult because of the kind of man Jim Colletto is. Jim did not achieve all the goals he had set for himself as Purdue's head coach, but he won the respect and affection of everyone who got to know him here. Jim will remain on Morgan Burke's staff as director of football operations. He started his new duties by assisting in the national search.
In addition to laying the foundation for a successful program, he set high standards for academic achievement, personal integrity, and hard work. These things will remain with the program and with the athletes Jim leaves behind. We owe him our gratitude and our continued admiration.
Steven C. Beering
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