sealPurdue Letter from the President

January, 1998

One reason universities are such exciting and challenging places is that they change constantly to meet new needs. At Purdue, we see this in every endeavor of the institution -- from the way courses are taught to the equipment used for research to the kind of food service offered in the residence halls.

In recent decades, tremendous changes have occurred in an area that has a great impact on the quality of student life. For many years, Purdue was recognized as a national leader in recreational sports. The quality of facilities and programs on the West Lafayette campus set a national standard. The Recreational Gymnasium -- nicknamed the Co-Rec -- was the nation's most comprehensive and innovative building of its kind when it was built in the 1950s. In the years that followed its construction, many universities modeled their student recreational facilities after the Co-Rec.

Unfortunately, Purdue no longer holds a leadership position in this area. Although the Co-Rec remains one of the most important and heavily used buildings on campus, it is showing its age. Other institutions have newer gymnasiums, and modern fitness trends have changed the way people exercise. Although our students and staff use the building at a rate of more than a million times per year, it is poorly suited for many of the activities for which it is used. Aerobics classes and basketball games take place simultaneously in the same rooms; a squash court has been converted into a makeshift weight training space; the demand for cardiovascular fitness training exceeds the building's capacity. The University's academic program in Health, Kinesiology and Leisure Studies (HKLS) also suffers from a lack of adequate instructional facilities.

At the same time, Purdue's swimming and diving facilities also have become outmoded. Boilermaker teams practice and compete at Lambert Fieldhouse in a pool that is more than sixty years old. The indoor and outdoor pools at the Co-Rec are both aging and in poor condition. None of the pools is adequate for competitive or recreational needs or for instruction.

Happily, there is a good solution to this multifaceted problem. Like all good solutions, it will require hard work, cooperation, and some time, but I'm confident we will get the job done. After four years of planning, Purdue has begun a private campaign to raise $15 million for a new Aquatics Center to be built as an addition to the Co-Rec. This facility will provide state-of-the art swimming and diving venues that will meet all the needs of our students, including the varsity teams. The project also will include a general renovation of the Co-Rec with a 17,000-square-foot cardiovascular and fitness center and a 5,800-square-foot aerobics studio.

The total cost of the project will be $23 million to be funded in part through bonding authority. Thanks to several leadership gifts, about $5 million already has been raised toward the $15 million private goal, and we have an excellent organization in place to carry out the rest of the campaign.

One of the best things about this initiative is the cooperation that is taking place among diverse areas of the University. Under the coordination of the University Development Office, administrators and faculty members in HKLS, Recreational Sports, Intercollegiate Athletics, and Student Services all have worked together toward a common goal which will benefit our students. Alumni -- including former members of the swimming and diving teams -- also have shown enthusiastic support.

This project has a direct bearing on the quality of the University, and I'm very proud of the start we have made toward restoring Purdue's leadership.

Fred Ford, Purdue's executive vice president and treasurer, has announced his plans to retire on June 30 of this year. Fred's career at the University spans four decades, including 25 years as its chief financial officer. He has been not only a giant in his professional field, but a devoted advocate for higher education. His high ethical standards and tireless work ethic are legendary among the people who work with him.

I have been fortunate to have had the great advantage of his wise counsel and the privilege of his friendship for many years. Fred will be missed by the entire Purdue family.

Steven C. Beering