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University Development Office
Launching Tomorrow's Leaders

Vernon L. (Larry) Hammersley (S '61)

Larry Hammersley

When Vernon “Larry” Hammersley reflects on his time at Purdue, it is with great fondness and deep appreciation. He chose Purdue for his education because he wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. Hammersley’s father farmed and provided for their family while his mother worked to put him through college. “Mom worked hard and sacrificed much so I could get an education.”

But Hammersley will be the first to admit academics were a challenge, and when he was doing poorly in math, switched his major from engineering to chemistry. “Later, I learned chemistry majors had to have the same math as most engineering students. My grades were not good.” Fortunately for Hammersley, his parents, lab assistants and good friends, along with two professors – Dr. Melvin G. Mellon and Dr. Herschel H. Hunt – believed in him and his willingness to work hard. “Without the professors, administrators, facilities, class material, and the list goes on, I wouldn’t have been able to get an education and make a contribution to society.”

An education can open a lot of doors as Hammersley will tell you. He worked summers as a student trainee at the Naval Ammunition Depot in Crane, Ind., later renamed Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division. In January 1961, with diploma in hand, he returned to Crane and was hired for a permanent position, where he worked his entire career as an analytical and physical chemist. “My total work time figured to be forty years, ten months and twenty-one days. I retired on September 29, 1999.”

Hammersley believes the cost of attending college is out of reach for many students and most wouldn’t have the opportunity to get an education without outside help. So he and his wife, Sue, created two endowed scholarships. The Stella Hammersley Memorial Scholarship was created in memory of his mother, and the Tisha Louise Hammersley Scholarship was created to honor the memory of their daughter who, after a life-long illness, passed away at the tender age of 14. “She represented the beginning of our family and caring for her gave us purpose in life. We were blessed to have her, and it is fitting we established a scholarship in her memory.”

Hammersley encourages giving. “Without the support of alumni, much of what Purdue provided for me will not be available to present and future students. Giving back is a small way of saying to Purdue that I appreciate what you have done for me and the opportunities you gave me.”