In 1984, I began using this monthly letter to make contact with a select group of people who have special relationships with Purdue. The initial mailing list included a few hundred names. It has grown to about 900 today, still a very small number in a University community of more than 300,000 people.
The letter has a variety of purposes. I have tried to keep you up to date on events and activities at Purdue; to acknowledge the accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni; and to articulate my views on issues that I considered important to higher education. But most of all, the letter has been a way to express my pride in Purdue, a University that I respected very deeply before I became its president. That respect was grounded in my awareness of the quality of its academic programs and the soundness of its management. In fact, my son, David, was a sophomore in the Schools of Engineering before I was approached about the presidency.
Since then, David and his bother, John, have earned four Purdue degrees between them, and all three of my daughters-in-law now display diplomas from the University. Over the years, my respect for Purdue and my pride in its achievements have grown into love for its ideals and its people. I have come to think of them as my extended family.
During the past sixteen years, many of you have written to comment on the letter's contents, ask questions, request additional information, or suggest that I add friends and colleagues to the mailing list. Although the letter's purpose has never been to generate media coverage, a number of media executives receive it, and this has led to the letter's being reprinted regularly in newspapers throughout Indiana.
Since the letter seems to have been an effective communications tool, I will use this month's edition -- the last one I will send as president of Purdue -- to express my gratitude for the remarkable support Purdue has received and for the personal friendship many of you have extended to me for many years.
Fortunately, I will not be saying good-bye to the Purdue family. After Martin Jischke assumes the presidency on August 14 I will continue to work on the University's behalf with the Purdue Research Foundation. Jane and I will occupy offices in the Purdue Memorial Union, and we certainly look forward to working with Martin and Patty Jischke, who will make a wonderful leadership team for Purdue. I know they will be counting on each of you to continue to provide guidance and support in the best ways you can.
As many of you know, I came to Purdue after previous careers in the U.S. Air Force and the Indiana University Medical Center. Each of these periods in my life has been deeply satisfying for me and -- I hope -- beneficial to the people I was striving to serve. However, my years at Purdue have convinced me that the most important priority of our state and nation should be improving the quality of our higher education systems and extending their benefits to as many people as possible.
The improvements in quality of life and the economic and social benefits that result from a university education are undeniable. We have not begun to understand how far these benefits can
take us. The advancement of knowledge that takes place at leading research universities is our best hope for making our world safer and more prosperous for future generations. If we invest generously and wisely in the remarkable enterprise we call higher education, our wisdom and foresight will be rewarded through the creation of a far better world.
For me, the opportunity to be involved in education through Purdue has been the highlight of a lifetime of public service, and I look forward to continuing it in the best ways I can.