Inaugural dean steps down, feeling pride in HHS’ strength, confidence in its future

Story by Greg McClure, photo by Charles Jischke

Eight years ago … I still vividly recall the excitement we shared as we prepared to launch our new college. We knew this was a special moment in time, an opportunity to build upon our collective expertise and aspirations to create a college with the critical mission of improving the lives of people.

It didn’t take long for some of that excitement to turn into trepidation as we grasped the enormity of the task and the inherent challenges of bringing together nine academic units from three different colleges, each with its own culture, ways and expectations. But we plowed ahead, focusing first on building a solid foundation that reliably serves us well today. We set the bar high, with strategic goals to pursue focused, high-impact research, to prepare our students to succeed both personally and professionally, to improve lives through outreach to our communities, and to create a workplace atmosphere of inclusion and respect.

And we did it! The can-do spirit of our faculty and staff, combined with your support and encouragement, made this epic journey and our bright, sustainable future possible.

As my term as HHS’ inaugural dean comes to a close, I’m often asked “What parts of the job did you like best?” The answer comes most easily when I reflect on what I will miss the most. I’ll miss being the “chief advocate and cheerleader” for the college and its faculty, staff and students, and I’ll especially miss you. Your loyal and generous support has made so many things possible, and I will be forever grateful for your friendship and belief in the bold journey we began eight years ago.

To everyone in our Purdue HHS family, it has been an honor and a joy to serve as your dean.


When Christine Ladisch (MS ’75, PHD ’78), the inaugural dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, stepped down Aug. 1, she did so convinced that the college was off to an excellent start and ready to take its next step in advancing human health, longevity and quality of life worldwide.

“Starting the college was invigorating and exciting,” says Ladisch, who was appointed interim dean when the college was created in 2010 and, after a national search, in 2013 was named dean. “It’s been successful because very early we talked about specific cultures and learning about each other.”

During her tenure, the college has seen the reorganization and name changes of several departments, the dedication of three new HHS buildings, increased enrollment, expanded academic programming, including the establishment of the Public Health Graduate Program, and growth of external research funding. She also led the college’s fundraising effort, which exceeded its $77 million goal for “Ever True: The Campaign for Purdue,” one year ahead of schedule.

“Christine Ladisch has been a tireless advocate for the college, its faculty, the students and alumni,” says Purdue President Mitch Daniels. “She has been a valued and trusted leader among her peers on campus. Nationally, she has helped establish a successful 21st century model to configure the health and human science disciplines within a college.”

In recognition of her leadership and service as dean, the Christine M. Ladisch Faculty Leadership Award has been established. The award recognizes women faculty who have excelled in leadership and supports those aspiring to even greater leadership roles. The awardee must be a female faculty member in the College of Health and Human Sciences who has taken significant leadership roles within her department, college, the University or the nation.

 “I don’t think you can listen to Chris speak about the College of Health and Human Sciences without being inspired,” says Jay Akridge, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs and diversity. “As a former dean, you have to be inspired by what she has accomplished as a leader — bringing nine very different departments from three colleges together to create a dynamic new college — is an extraordinary achievement.

“As I have said on a number of occasions, it is one thing to run a college, it is something else entirely to build one.”

Ladisch will continue to serve Purdue and HHS.

“I know two things. One is that I will take a sabbatical and that will coincide with my husband’s sabbatical,” she says. “Two is that I am co-chair, with Mark Lundstrom (the Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering), of the Ideas Festival that is the centerpiece of the University’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2018-2019. I have a lot ahead of me, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Ideas Festival will focus on four Giant Leaps topics of discussion — space, AI, health and a sustainable world — as Purdue reflects on the past, embraces the present and looks to the future.

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