October 18, 2016

Purdue Profiles: Brian E. Edelman

Brian E. Edelman Brian E. Edelman, chief operating officer for Purdue Research Foundation. (Purdue Research Foundation photo) Download image

When Brian E. Edelman retired from Eli Lilly and Co. in early 2015, he planned to travel the world with his wife, Kate.

Then the Purdue Research Foundation called and this Boilermaker answered.

Limiting his worldly travels to one month, Edelman joined Purdue Research Foundation in March 2015 as chief financial officer and treasurer. He was promoted to chief operating officer a year later. His responsibilities include overseeing the foundation’s $3.5 billion endowment, Purdue Research Park network and other foundation real estate holdings and initiatives to support Purdue.

At the top of the list, at least for the past year, is the development of the Purdue Innovation District, a $1 billion venture to develop the west side of Purdue's West Lafayette campus, and Back a Boiler - ISA Fund, an income share agreement launched in April that provides an alternative funding program for Purdue students.

What prompted your interest in joining the Purdue team?

I earned a BA from Wabash College and an MSM in finance from the Krannert School of Management. As a Boilermaker and now as a team member of Purdue, I truly believe in our mission to provide students with a higher education at the highest proven value. Our recent Wall Street Journal ranking as No. 4 for public universities attests to the fact that Purdue is recognized as one of the best universities in the U.S.

My education at Wabash and then at Krannert were tremendous assets in my career at Lilly. Coming to the Purdue Research Foundation is my way of giving back to a university that has given me so much. And there are so many great initiatives and programs happening at Purdue right now that I believe this is the best time to be at Purdue. I like the challenge and feeling that what we are doing will help, and is helping, so many people. 

How would you say Purdue compares to working at Eli Lilly?

It’s very similar in that both organizations are working to improve lives for people around the globe. Lilly, of course, is doing it by developing and distributing life-saving drugs. Purdue’s role in this endeavor is much more expansive. The tremendous faculty, staff and students are innovating and commercializing new technologies to help our global society, we’re educating our world’s future leaders and we’re part of a community where everyone’s lives are being enriched.

What is your favorite part of your job?

That we, not I, are making a real and tangible difference. We’re developing the Purdue Innovation District, which will truly transform the west side of the Purdue campus. And this fall we provided nearly $2 million in funding to about 150 students through the Back a Boiler income share agreement. Several students in the program tell us that they would not have been able to complete their education without the support of this fund.

Seeing these projects and other programs come to fruition at what I would call light speed for projects of this nature, is a true testament to what is happening at Purdue right now. More than the projects, it is witnessing how we are changing lives today and assisting future generations.

What do you do in your free time?

I love to fish -- catch and release. There’s something special about being in a stream with the sounds of nature around you. You’d think fishing is just putting a rod in the water and waiting for something to bite. There is a bit of that, but like everything else in life fishing has its nuances and challenges. This year I tried spey casting, a type of fly fishing. It was phenomenal. So much going on in the lessons it was important to keep the big fly from hitting me or others in the head.

Any upcoming travels?

Early next year I have plans to do my first salt water fly fishing in the Grand Bahamas. More to learn about fly fishing and trying new things.

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340, casequin@prf.org

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