NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Black-and-white photos of Lois and Jim Ackerman, and color prints of an architect's rendering of the planned turfgrass research center and of Clark Throssell and Zac Reicher examining a grass plug pulled from a putting green, are available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096. Ask for the photos called Ackermans, Turfgrass/Throssell and Golf Course/Throssell.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- An Indianapolis couple has given $1 million to a novel golf course renovation project that blends academics and athletics at Purdue University.
The gift is from Lois R. and James F. Ackerman. Jim Ackerman is president of Cardinal Ventures LLC of Indianapolis, which provides venture capital to entrepreneurs. He also is president and owner of Prairie View Golf Club, a course being built in Carmel, and is former majority owner and chairman and chief executive officer of Cardinal Communications Inc.
Purdue is seeking $6.5 million in private support for the project. Legendary golf course designer Pete Dye is overseeing an upgrade of Purdue's 36-hole golf complex. The completed project will include the first comprehensive turfgrass research and diagnostic facility in the nation.
The project also includes an enhanced practice range; a new clubhouse, cart storage and shelter facilities; and an 18-hole contoured putting course, a first in Indiana.
The Ackermans said they made the gift because they believe a world-class golf complex will benefit the state and the university. They also saw it as an opportunity to capitalize on Purdue's strength in agronomy by creating one of the finest golf courses in the Big Ten.
"We like to see quality golf courses. At some point it'd be great to see Purdue host the NCAA golf championships," said Jim Ackerman, who said he and his wife are avid golfers.
The couple also see their gift as a payback to the university.
"I could never fully give back to Purdue what it gave me in terms of an education," said Jim, who received his bachelor's degree from the School of Agriculture in 1947. "We're glad to do this for Purdue and the general public."
Dye, who lives in Carmel, has offered to contribute his design and consulting fees to do a complete redesign of Purdue's North Course, and improvements to the South Course.
"The Purdue project offers a chance to put the knowledge of the university to work on the golf course," said Dye, who has designed more than 60 courses worldwide and is known for designing courses that are sensitive to the environment. "We have a chance to make this the most environmentally sensitive golf course in the world."
Jim Ackerman said: "Purdue is aiming high in planning a golf facility of this caliber. Golf is a growth industry, and a Pete Dye-designed course will be a significant economic factor for the Lafayette area. Also, this new facility gives Purdue the potential to take its golf programs to a new level."
As part of the overall golf course project, the Turfgrass Research and Diagnostic Center will be a living laboratory where faculty, students and staff can develop and observe various turf management systems, said Clark Throssell, professor of agronomy and a co-director of the center. The center's outdoor plots will allow researchers to investigate ways to correct turf problems, conduct research on the effect of golf courses on the environment, and look for ways to apply environmentally friendly agronomic techniques such as biological pest control to lawns and turf.
"Students will be able to see first-hand a wide range of problems encountered when maintaining turf and see what weeds, insects and various plant diseases look like in a field setting," Throssell said. "This will greatly increase their comprehension of what we are teaching."
Zac Reicher, turf specialist with the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service, is the other co-director.
Work on the new North Course should begin this fall in conjunction with a highway project that will widen Lindberg Road, which passes through the course. Construction of the turfgrass research facility is expected to be completed by the time the new golf course opens in spring 1998.
Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said: "The Ackermans are among Purdue's greatest benefactors. Their gift is a significant step in our campaign. It allows us to move forward with work while we continue to finalize the funding for the project."
The Ackermans made a $2 million gift to Purdue in 1993 to establish the James F. Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship in the School of Education. The one-of-a-kind center seeks to instill democratic principles in elementary-school children based on seven values: individual rights; the common good; justice; equality of opportunity; diversity; truth; and patriotism.
To achieve its goal, the Ackerman center conducts intensive summer institutes for teachers; sponsors workshops and civic, ethics and economic education projects for teachers and students; and develops curricula and resource citizenship education materials.
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