December 11, 2023

Daniels’ Purdue legacy honored at bust unveiling ceremony

President Emeritus Mitchell E.Daniels, Jr. knew of Purdue University’s tradition to honor its former presidents with a bust sculpture, joining the storied lineup of the Boilermaker leaders who went before him. 

And the self-deprecating Daniels suggested he knew the ideal spot to display his commemorative bust in the Purdue Memorial Union instead of the Great Hall: “There’s a broom closest on the third floor and it’s just the right size,” he remarked.

But Purdue’s 12th president also was clearly moved by the outpouring he received at the special celebration in his honor Friday.

“It’s incredibly gratifying not only because of all of you who are here, but the spectrum of those of you here in the audience — from the Purdue community, my co-workers and those from my previous lives, too,” an emotional Daniels said during the event. “That’s probably the greatest gift you could have given me. It means a lot.”

Daniels with bronze bust President Emeritus Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. poses with his bronze bust sculpture, which was unveiled a during a special event Friday, Dec. 8. The Daniels sculpture eventually will reside in the Great Hall with Purdue’s 11 other past presidents (Purdue University photo/Greta Bell) Download image

Throughout his decade as Purdue’s 12th president, from 2013-22, Daniels made student affordability and student success top priorities — providing higher education at the highest proven value. He exemplified the role of public intellectual and thought leader in poignant speeches, provocative opinion pieces and national interviews on topics of great currency to American society.

At the event, Mike Berghoff, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, recounted what led to Daniels’ selection during the summer of 2012 and his arrival on campus Jan. 1, 2013. And Berghoff shared some of the many highlights of what would become the Daniels Decade and the contributions he made during his time at the helm of this land-grant university.

Unprecedented enrollment growth. Changing how learning and research are delivered across campus. New highs in fundraising through the Ever True campaign. Expanding the university’s land-grant mission through the creation of Purdue Global and Purdue Polytechnic High Schools. Spearheading over $500 million in facility improvement projects. And championing university-led economic development through major efforts such as Discovery Park District at Purdue.

“Mitch Daniels totally transformed the trajectory of this place,” Berghoff said. “I know you have high expectations of yourself, Mitch. But you delivered. You really delivered. You allowed hundreds of thousands of Boilermakers to stoke the flame they have for achieving their dreams and pursuing an education at the nation’s most consequential university.

“You reminded us often that anything’s possible with a Purdue education. And our responsibility as trustees, as stewards of this great university, is to make sure the momentum you created during the Daniels Decade continues.”

Purdue President Mung Chiang noted the poignancy of the  day’s celebration by summarizing what the trustees had just approved during their morning meeting in Stewart Center — a plan to extend for a 13th year, through 2025-26, a tuition freeze first implemented by Daniels while enabling the $1.3 billion and counting worth of investment in new facilities; elevation of research capabilities that led to the winning of 3 national hubs; and economic development at Discovery Park District that led to the long-awaited resumption of commercial air service at Purdue University Airport.

“There is no other university leader like Mitch Daniels. Our university hit all-time records in student access and success, in research and innovation, and in transformative growth,” Chiang said. “Thank you, Mitch, for elevating the most consequential university in America.”

Chiang also spoke about the significance of the presidential busts at Purdue and the tradition of having them on display in the Memorial Union Great Hall. And he reminded the audience what an honor it is to succeed Daniels as Purdue’s 13th president, thanking him for his impactful 10 years of leadership and what he will forever mean to Boilermakers everywhere.

“If I were to list all of the accomplishments and the impact of the Daniels Decade, it would be thicker than this book of the wise counsel that Mitch has given us over the past 10 years,” said Chiang, holding up a copy of Daniels’ new book, “Boiler Up: A University President in the Public Square.” “Words and ideas matter, and no one can articulate ideas better than our very own Mitch Daniels.”

Following the ceremony, attendees had the opportunity to purchase the book. Proceeds from book sales support the scholarship fund at Purdue Polytechnic High Schools.

The bronze bust of Daniels was sculpted by artist Jon Hair, who also was commissioned to create the bronze Purdue Boilermaker statue just outside Ross-Ade Stadium.

Boiler Up: A University President in the Public Square

The Great Hall is home to busts of Purdue’s 11 past presidents as well as David Ross, former trustee and Purdue benefactor, and Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president. Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, which allowed for the creation of Purdue and many other universities across the nation. The busts are a symbolic reminder of the inspired leadership that has made Purdue a great institution.

About the book

“Boiler Up: A University President in the Public Square” offers readers a fascinating compendium of commencement addresses, published columns, and transcripts of speeches and hosted events spanning 10 years of insights and insightful interactions that put Daniels front and center among American thought leaders.

Throughout the book, Daniels’ sharp intellect, incisive analysis and delightful sense of humor reign supreme. Via embedded QR codes, readers can “attend” recorded content, including evenings with Condoleezza Rice, Garry Kasparov, Walter Isaacson and other fascinating people. Whether the reader seeks lessons on leadership or immersion in engaging ideas, “Boiler Up” is a tour de force of transformative thinking.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini,

Contributing: Kami Goodwin,; Tom Schott,

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