8th Purdue president dies; remembered for love of students, philanthropy

July 7, 2010

FORT MYERS, FLA. - Purdue's eighth president, Arthur G. Hansen, who led the university from 1971-1982, died Monday (July 5) following complications from surgery at Health Park Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 85.

Arthur G. Hansen

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The only Purdue president to also be an alumnus, Hansen focused much of his energies on developing relationships with students and building the initial foundation for the university's fundraising efforts. In 1972 he founded the President's Council, an organization of those who financially support the university.

Under Hansen's administration, enrollment increased from 26,000 to more than 32,000, and new buildings were constructed for agriculture, psychology, life sciences and athletics. Hansen also supported the establishment of Purdue's first Black Cultural Center and the university's first retirees association in 1976.

A decade after he left Purdue, when asked for the highlight of his Purdue presidency, Hansen responded quickly, "When I bought that supercomputer for Michael."

It was Purdue's first supercomputer and one of only a handful the country. Purdue professor Michael Rossmann went on to use the supercomputer to become the first to map the structure of the common cold virus.

"Art Hansen loved students and loved Purdue," said Purdue's current president, France A. Córdova. "An engineer by discipline, he also supported the arts, knowing that they form the heart of a great institution."

Purdue honored him by naming the Arthur G. Hansen Life Sciences Research Building in his honor. He, in turn, honored Purdue and his wife, Nancy Tucker Hansen, in 2002 by giving $1.8 million to build a proscenium theater, which now bears her name. The theater is part of Yue-Kong Pao Hall, home to Purdue's visual and performing arts.

President Emeritus Hansen was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., on Feb. 28, 1925. He earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and master's degree in mathematics from Purdue in 1946 and 1948. Hansen received his doctorate in mathematics from Case Institute of Technology in 1958. He also holds several honorary degrees.

Before joining Purdue, Hansen was a professor at the University of Michigan and then moved on to Georgia Institute of Technology, where he served as its dean of engineering and then president. He left Purdue in 1982 to become chancellor of the Texas A&M University system. He served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. After retirement, he made his home in Zionsville, Ind., and then in Fort Myers, Fla.

Hansen is survived by a wife, Marylin White Hansen; sons Geoffrey (wife Angela) of San Francisco, James of Houston and Paul (wife Dee Ann) of Saratoga, Calif.; daughters Ruth Rachel (husband Michael) of Carmel, Calif., and Chris Glancy (husband Michael) of Fort Myers, Fla.; and five grandchildren: John, Catherine, James, Steven and Richard.

Viewing will be at 10 a.m. Friday (July 9), with services at 11 a.m. at the Harvey-Englehardt-Metz Funeral Home, 1600 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers. A local calling at Lafayette's Soller-Baker Funeral Home, 400 Twyckenham Blvd., begins at 10 a.m. Monday (July 12), with services at 1 p.m. Burial will be at McCormick Cemetery in West Lafayette. Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Center of Zionsville, Ind., is handling arrangements and online condolences may be written at http://www.flannerbuchanan.com

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for contributions to be made to the Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga., or to Purdue on behalf of the Cancer Center in the Arthur G. Hansen Life Sciences Research Building.

Writer: Jeanne Norberg, 765-494-2084, jnorberg@purdue.edu