sealPurdue Letter from the President

November, 1999

Every ten years, each Purdue campus must go through a strenuous process of reaccreditation under the auspices of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Accreditation is one of the mechanisms used to determine whether a university is carrying out its missions effectively. Of course, the administration, faculty, and Board of Trustees – each in its own way – continually monitor the institution's performance, but the NCA accreditation adds the additional dimension of peer review.

A twelve-member panel of senior professors and administrators from a broad selection of universities visited the West Lafayette campus for three days, concluding on November 18. This site visit was the culmination of eighteen months of work, involving hundreds of people.

Led by Dr. Carolyn Jones, assistant executive vice president for academic affairs, the campus engaged in an intense self-study. The resulting report – more than 250 pages long – covers every office, department, program, and process. After studying the report, the review team participated in more than forty meetings and interviewed more than 350 individuals.

The results of the accreditation process will not be official until the NCA issues its report, but members of the team made it clear that they are impressed with what they saw here – from the quality of teaching and research, to the condition of facilities, to the strong sense of teamwork that exists at all levels. One team member commented that Purdue is "arguably the finest research institution in America."

Although the work involved in reaccreditation makes me glad that it happens only every ten years, the exercise is extremely valuable. The self-study creates an opportunity to evaluate both strengths and weaknesses. As a result, we have a better sense of where we are and where we are going as an institution, and it is tremendously gratifying to know that Purdue is worthy of such high praise from a group of distinguished professional educators.

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At its November 12 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a major improvement to one of the University's most important libraries. The $5.5 million renovation will transform the Humanities, Social Science, and Education Library from a bookshelf-lined facility into a model information center that blends traditional materials with high-technology information retrieval systems.

Dr. Emily Mobley, dean of libraries, who has been a national leader in the use of electronics, commented: "This system will provide a library that responds in an efficient, user-friendly way that takes full advantage of technology."

Purdue's library system is unusual in that its learning and research materials are distributed throughout the campus, organized by academic disciplines, rather than relying on a single central library. The renovation will create a nerve center that will make the system even more efficient and accessible.

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After playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country, the Boilermaker football team was rewarded with a bid to play in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida, on New Year's Day. Purdue's opponent will be the University of Georgia, representing the Southeastern Conference. The game will start at 11 a.m. January 1, making it the first major college football game of the new millennium.

Coach Joe Tiller's success in his three seasons at Purdue has had a major impact on fan interest. Attendance at Ross-Ade Stadium averaged more than 60,000 per game. The resulting increased revenue not only will help fund a major stadium upgrade, but also will assist other Boilermaker sports.

Intercollegiate athletics are fully self-supporting at Purdue, and most of our eighteen sports operate at a financial loss. This means the ones that create revenue – primarily basketball and football – help support the ones that don't.

Appearances in the Alamo Bowl in 1997 and 1998 turned out to be great experiences for Boilermaker fans, and I expect the visit to Tampa to be enjoyable, too. Florida's gulf coast is a favorite vacation and retirement spot for Purdue alumni, so we are expecting to attract a large group of fans to the area. It will make for a busy, but highly enjoyable, holiday season.

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A lot of University history has unfolded at the Purdue Memorial Union, which recently celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. The building opened in 1924 after being proposed by students twelve years earlier. The original structure was dedicated as a memorial to the Purdue men and women who died in World War I. It has since had six major additions.

In addition to serving as an activity center for students faculty, staff, and alumni – its original intent – the Union also provides restaurant and hotel service, meeting rooms, office space, banquet facilities, and study areas for students. It also includes a number of historic sites, including Purdue's Book of Great Teachers, busts of the University's presidents, and a scale model of the West Lafayette campus.

The most striking thing about the Union is that its long, rambling hallways adorned with richly dark woodwork and gleaming terrazzo floors evoke an earlier age when elegance was as important as efficiency. It's one of my favorite Purdue buildings.

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The end of another semester is near, and I wish you a joyous holiday season!


Steven C. Beering