August 5, 2019

‘Boiler Bytes’ kicks off the fall with story of Purdue’s founding 150 years ago


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Could the Indiana University and Purdue University rivalry have started before athletics were introduced on the two campuses?

Before Purdue could be established in 1869, John Purdue and Lafayette were in a bidding war against Indiana University to become Indiana’s land-grant school. Indiana University had an established school and campus, but John Purdue had a vision for starting a school in Tippecanoe County.

The story of Purdue University’s founding is featured in a nearly 10-minute video as part of Purdue’s “Boiler Bytes series. Randy Roberts, distinguished professor of history; Susan Curtis, a professor of history; Kristina Bross, professor of English; and John Norberg, author and historian, all contributed to “The Founding of Purdue University 1.0.” This episode also will be featured on the Big Ten Network in the fall.

This video is one of many highlights celebrating Purdue’s sesquicentennial, “150 Years of Giant Leaps.” The anniversary highlights Purdue’s history of giant leaps, while focusing on what giant leaps Purdue can take to address the world’s problems. The 150th anniversary kicked off during Homecoming 2018 and will conclude at Homecoming in October 2019 with an astronaut reunion.

The west bank of the Wabash River and its small town of Chauncey had nothing but 100 homes when John Purdue bought nearly 100 acres of it and gave it to the state. He pledged $150,000 dollars, several million by today’s standards, and the land to establish a land-grant school. His request upon donating was that the university would be named after him.

When Purdue’s doors opened in September 1874, the student fees for the year totaled just over $20. Purdue’s first class had only 39 students. Of those students, 26 were placed in an academy or preparatory school to catch the students up so that they would be able to succeed at the university. In comparison to the number of students then, Purdue’s 2018 total enrollment was 43,411, an all-time high for the university.

For more about Purdue’s history, Norberg has written a book, “Ever True: 150 Years of Giant Leaps at Purdue University,” to provide a look at the people involved in Purdue’s history to date. The book includes countless stories of faculty, students, alumni and leaders who have influenced Purdue from John Purdue himself to Mitch Daniels. “Ever True” also looks at the triumphs and tribulations of faculty and students’ lives throughout the decades. The book can be purchased online

Writer: Madison Sanneman, msannema@purdue.edu 

Media Contact: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

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