sealPurdue Letter from the President

October, 1999

The reunion of Purdue's astronaut alumni in October created one of the most memorable weekends ever on the West Lafayette campus. Eighteen of these remarkable men and women joined us for the annual meeting of the President's Council, a group of people who support Purdue at the highest level.

The astronauts attended a variety of public and private events. They met with students, attended classes, greeted alumni and met with members of the Indiana General Assembly, who were on campus. The astronauts even served as guest professors in a special back-to-class program presented to President's Council members.

During halftime of the October 23 Purdue-Penn State football game, the astronauts made a dramatic on-field appearance. The image of Neil Armstrong striking the world's largest drum, then exchanging a "high five" with Gene Cernan, will remain for a lifetime with everyone who was in Ross-Ade Stadium that day. The first and last men to walk on the moon have remained loyal Purdue alumni throughout their lives. Both have enjoyed highly successful careers in private business, and Gene recently added a new dimension to the history of the American space program with his insightful book The Last Man on the Moon.

During Gene's visit, the University scheduled a two-hour book-signing event to allow him to autograph copies for the public. At the time the event was scheduled to end, several hundred people were still waiting hopefully for his signature, so Gene rearranged his schedule and continued to sign books and chat with their owners for well over four hours. He stayed until everyone was satisfied – a gracious act by a true gentleman.

Purdue's role in the history of space exploration is unique. In addition to having graduated twenty-one men and women who have been selected for space flight, the University has sent thousands of other key people to NASA and has made significant contributions through research.

Two of the early Purdue astronauts – Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee – died tragically in 1967 in a training exercise conducted as part of the Apollo 1 mission. Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, during their October visit to campus, made a powerful and moving statement about the contributions of these lost heroes. Gus and Roger were represented at the reunion by their wives, Betty Grissom and Martha Chaffee, and by Gus's son Scott.

For the astronauts, the weekend gave them a chance to honor their alma mater, but it also was a rare opportunity for them to be together and to share thoughts about the unique bonds they share: The adventure of space travel and a Purdue degree.

Another very special event occurred during Homecoming weekend when the University dedicated its new Black Cultural Center. Located in the heart of campus, the center was designed brilliantly by Blackburn Architects of Indianapolis. The building combines traditional African themes with modern convenience, giving Purdue one of the most beautiful and functional centers of this type in the country.

Built entirely with gift funds, the new Black Cultural Center opened during the past summer and quickly became a favorite meeting and event site for offices and organizations from throughout the University. This development is very promising, because one of the purposes of the center is to bring together diverse people for the purpose of mutual understanding. These are small but important steps in our progress as a society.

Purdue's School of Management and Krannert Graduate School of Management continue to receive national recognition. Most recently, the October 18 issue of Business Week ranked the Krannert School's executive master's degree program among the top 20 in the country; Computerworld magazine in September rated the Krannert School seventh in the country in techno-MBAs; and the British news magazine The Economist ranked the school No. 1 in career placement services.

As I write this, the Boilermaker football team has assured itself of its third straight winning season under Coach Joe Tiller, despite playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country. With his remarkable leadership ability and his emphasis on high ethical standards and academic excellence, Joe has given our fans a program of which we can all be proud.

Steven C. Beering