seal  Purdue News

October 27, 2003

Professional leaders to visit Purdue as Old Masters

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Ten leaders in business, science, medicine, non-profit organizations, journalism, farming and entertainment will visit Purdue University on Nov. 2-4 to share their expertise during the 2003 Old Masters program.

Sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Students, the Old Masters program is an annual tradition that gives students the opportunity to interact with men and women who have risen to the top of their career fields.

During their three-day stay on campus, the Old Masters, most of whom are Purdue alumni, will visit classrooms and residence halls and share informal meals where they will engage in open dialogue with students. Two events are open to all students and faculty – the getting-to-know-you talks at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 in the Purdue Memorial Union West Faculty Lounge and the all-campus reception at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Shreve Hall.

The Old Masters program started in 1950 with the idea of inviting leaders to Purdue who embody the ideals of "honesty, personal integrity and a good philosophy." More than 500 men and women have visited the campus in that capacity in the 53 years since the program's inception.

The 2003 Old Masters are:

• Vanessa Castagna, executive vice president, chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Stores, catalog and Internet. Castagna serves on the boards of the Fashion Institute of Technology Educational Foundation, the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the J.C. Penney Afterschool Fund. She graduated in 1971 from Purdue with a bachelor's degree in psychology and speech communication.

• Jim Gibbons is president and CEO of National Industries for the Blind, a nonprofit organization that creates employment opportunities for blind people and employs more than 5,000 people. Gibbons earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Purdue and was the first blind person to receive an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.

• Leslie Gibson is a Lafayette native who earned an associate degree in nursing at Purdue in 1978. An internationally recognized speaker and educator, Gibson specializes in stress management, customer service and techniques of using humor in non-traditional ways to improve business and personal life. She is a full-time community liaison with Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, teaching nurses, doctors and caregivers how to use humor in the treatment of terminal patients.

• Scott Givens, president of Stadium Stunts Productions, has created entertainment spectacles for more than 100 world-class events, including the 2000 Rose Bowl Parade, Disney's Animal Kingdom and the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics ceremonies. He was creative director for the 2002 Winter Olympics and received the Olympic Order, an award given to those who have achieved "remarkable merit in the sports world, or have rendered outstanding services to the Olympic cause." He earned a bachelor's degree from Purdue and a master's degree from the University of Southern California.

• David Johnston is the U.S. Department of Justice correspondent for the Washington Bureau of The New York Times. He has shared two Pulitzer prizes with a team of colleagues, one in 1994 for his coverage of the World Trade Center bombing and another in 1999 for his reporting on American technology sales to China and Chinese campaign donations to the Clinton-Gore 1996 re-election effort. He is co-author of the book, "Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, An American Spy." Johnston received his bachelor's degree in industrial management from Purdue in 1969.

• Marjorie Magner is chairman and CEO of Citigroup's Global Consumer Group and is responsible for three of the financial service giant's largest consumer businesses: Citibanking North America, Primerica Financial Services and CitiFinancial. She also serves on Citigroup's Management Committee and its Consumer Planning Group. She is on the Purdue Krannert School of Management Dean's Advisory Council and is on the board of directors of the Welfare-to-Work Partnership and Dress for Success Worldwide. She is a frequent speaker on diversity, technology and business issues.

• Kevin Sullivan, vice president of communications for NBC Sports, develops and executes strategic public relations plans for the network's sports coverage, which includes the Olympics, PGA Tour, Notre Dame football, Wimbledon, NASCAR and the Triple Crown. He also is the primary spokesman for NBC Sports. He was honored five times as the outstanding public relations director in the NBA Western Conference. He earned a bachelor's degree in management at Purdue.

• Wayne Townsend, a 1951 graduate of Purdue's School of Agriculture, is a hog producer farming 2,200 acres in Blackford and Grant counties. He served two terms in the Indiana House of Representatives (1959-1961 and 1963-1966) and in the Indiana Senate (1971-1987). He was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1984. He joined Purdue's Board of Trustees in 1989 and is the current vice chairman.

• Sheri Wilson-Gray is executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Saks Fifth Avenue. She graduated from Purdue in 1972 with a degree in fashion retailing and returned to earn a master's degree in management from the Krannert School in 1974. As a top executive for Saks Fifth Avenue, she manages 61 Sax Fifth Avenue stores, 52 Off 5th outlet locations, 24 direct mail catalogs and the Web site.

• David Wolf is chief of NASA's Office Extravehicular Activity. His team develops, tests and conducts spacewalks for space station assembly, maintenance and emergency repair. He has logged 158 days in space during three missions, including a long stay on the Russian space station MIR. He has received 17 U.S. patents, more than 20 Space Act awards and was NASA's inventor of the year in 1992. He earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1978 and a doctorate of medicine from Indiana University in 1982.

Writer: Reni Winter, (765) 496-3133,

Sources: Heather Webb, (765) 494-1235,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: To arrange interviews with Old Masters, contact Heather Webb at (765) 494-1235, Publication-quality photos of the 2003 Old Masters are available at

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