sealPurdue Letter from the President

December, 1999

We had plenty of excitement and many changes at Purdue during 1999. I'd like to make my last monthly letter of the year a capsule review of some of the highlights.

• In January, the University restructured its continuing education and distance learning services in order to increase emphasis on lifelong learning and take advantage of emerging technologies. The new Office of Instructional Excellence and Lifelong Learning is under the direction of Philip Swain, assistant executive vice president for academic affairs. Phil is a distinguished administrator and educator with long experience in distance education. The new organization is enhancing Purdue's ability to meet the needs of students of all ages, including a technology-oriented work force that increasingly depends on lifelong learning. It also will help our faculty develop and adapt technology for teaching, especially in the outreach arena. This change represents an important step for Purdue and the state.

• The annual March basketball hysteria reached a new level at Purdue as the Boilermaker women capped a sparkling season by winning their first national championship. The season included victories over several national powers. Best of all – from my perspective – it was accomplished by a group of young women with outstanding academic credentials, led by seniors Stephanie McCarty, who graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa, and Ukari Figgs, who was an excellent student in engineering. Ukari, after completing a successful season in the Women's National Basketball Association, returned to Purdue for the past fall semester and received her degree on December 19. The Boilermaker men's team didn't win a championship last season, but they made a very successful appearance in the NCAA tournament.

• April brought the culmination of several years of effort aimed at recognizing the contributions of Purdue's most outstanding teachers. During the annual Gala Week celebrations, we dedicated the Book of Great Teachers, which bears the names of 225 of the finest past and current faculty members in the University's history. The names of those to be honored were selected though a combination of research and the nominations of students and alumni. The "book" appears as an engraved bronze plaque on permanent display in the Purdue Memorial Union. Every five years, the University will activate the process to add new names.

The dedication ceremony on April 23 was one of the most moving events I have ever seen at Purdue. Students and alumni attended to honor their favorite teachers; current and former faculty members came with their families to be recognized; and in some cases the children and grandchildren of now-deceased professors joined us. There were happy reunions and a sharing of memories of men and women who make a profound difference in people's lives. For me, the occasion called to mind the words of the American writer Henry Brooks Adams, who said, "A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops."

• One of the most important developments for the state in recent years has been the emergence of the Purdue Research Park as a center of technology-oriented entrepreneurship. In August, Governor Frank O'Bannon helped us dedicate a new business incubator facility that will provide space for up to 40 high-tech companies. By nurturing these young firms during their vulnerable start-up period, we can help them become successful and contribute to stable economic growth in the state.

The new incubator is the second such facility in the Research Park. The first, opened in 1993, is operating at full capacity with 29 businesses. Also under construction is an Innovation Center, which will serve as an intermediary facility for small firms that grow out of the incubators but need additional support before moving on to full independence.

The Purdue Research Park opened in 1961 and is home to more than 80 companies employing about 2,500 people. The park's focus is on high-technology firms that will provide the kind of jobs our state's economy needs if it is to stay competitive.

• The start of the academic year in August brought record enrollment to the West Lafayette campus and near-record enrollment to the Purdue system. Demand for the University's programs is at an all-time high, a trend that is continuing into the year 2000, as the number of applications continues to rise. The University's challenge for the next few years will be to manage enrollment, especially in West Lafayette, where the 37,762 students enrolled in the fall of 1999 put us very near the maximum we can accept while still maintaining the quality of programs.

Other good news in the enrollment story is the academic quality of our freshmen, whose SAT scores average 15 points higher than the fall 1996 class and who include 185 high school valedictorians. This year's freshman class also includes a strong increase in minority students, which remains a priority for the University.

• In November, Purdue went though a self-study and external review as part of its required accreditation process. As discussed in detail in last month's letter, this was a very successful and productive process that positions the University ideally for the new decade.

• The year closed with a trip to the Tampa area for the Outback Bowl where the Boilermakers competed against the Georgia Bulldogs. Although the game's outcome was not a happy one for Purdue football fans, the bowl experience was tremendous, and the season was another very successful one for Joe Tiller, his staff, and his team. All signs point to many more years of excitement for Purdue football fans, especially after the Ross-Ade Stadium renovation is complete.

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We begin again with the challenges of a new year, a new century, a new millennium. To each of you I say thanks for all you do for Purdue, and I wish you success and happiness as we go forward together.

Steven C. Beering