Purdue University

Giving to Purdue

University Development Office
Passion for Purdue

Ken Roswarski

“I give to WBAA because I believe in Purdue, and WBAA is the voice of Purdue.”

Each gift, no matter the size, is a vote of confidence in the University and a testament of loyalty to the Boilermaker family. Purdue employee donors are passionate about their support. But before they give, there is a story. 

Ken Roswarski

Ken Roswarski, journeyman carpenter on the West Lafayette campus. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

A Purdue employee for 30 years, Ken Roswarski knows firsthand how Purdue connects with the community and its faculty, staff and students.

Growing up in Lafayette, he began to view Purdue as a connecting force in his life from a very early age, and he has met or worked for six Purdue presidents starting with Frederick L. Hovde.

"My father owned a shoe repair business, and Mr. Hovde would bring his shoes in. I remember seeing him and my dad telling me that was the president of Purdue University," Roswarski says. "The first introduction I had to Purdue – other than Mr. Hovde – was through WBAA. When I was in grade school, there was a segment we would listen to during dinner when they would play only classical music."

The station decided to conduct a contest that challenged local grade school children to learn about classical music. The goal was for them to be able to recognize and identify the pieces and composers. Over the course of a two-month period, the station played portions of the pieces daily.

"We'd listen to the segments during school while we were doing other work," Roswarski says. "Then I'd listen to it in the car on the way home after my dad picked me up from school. I felt I had an advantage because I got to hear it more than once each day."

At the end of the contest, students had to identify the music from a one-minute portion. Students who got eight of the 10 correct were invited to attend an orchestra performance at Elliott Hall of Music where all the pieces they learned were performed.

"It was a really big deal for me to get to go to the event," Roswarski says. "More than one piece has stayed with me to this day but two in particular. One is Tchaikovsky's 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies' from 'The Nutcracker,' which was the lead-in music to dinner hour. The other -- the one that sticks with me the most -- is the 'Polonaise Militaire' by Chopin. I think I was intrigued more because this was composed by someone from Poland.

"I thought this contest was a great way for WBAA to reach out to the whole community, including the children. What I learned is that Purdue University engages people -- from events structured so that the community can be part of what's happening to the radio station that reaches people, some of whom only know Purdue through their connection with WBAA.

"When we are young, we believe in many things -- our parents, family, superheroes, Santa. All are very real and closely held feelings. As we grow older and wiser, those shining heroes can lose their sparkle, and as an adult, we look for new people or organizations to fill that niche."

For Roswarski, that niche was Purdue and specifically the voice of Purdue through WBAA.

"I give because I believe in Purdue," Roswarski says. "John Purdue was the first believer. He gave for an idea. I think and hope that the majority of those who support this great university do so because they share that vision, and in some small way wish to be part of it."

* Faculty and staff who would like to share their own thoughts and stories about supporting Purdue should contact stewardship@purdue.edu or 49-43872.