seal  Letter from the President

A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke

On February 25, Lilly Endowment Inc. announced a major initiative aimed at helping Indiana's colleges and universities recruit and retain talented students, faculty and staff. The program offers up to $100 million to be distributed on the basis of enrollment among 37 higher education institutions. Purdue is eligible for a grant of up to $17.5 million, and it will be up to the university to develop a proposal on how the funds will be used to help bring gifted people to Indiana and keep them here.

Lilly Endowment deserves our gratitude for its generosity, of course. However, it's just as important to acknowledge the Endowment's wisdom in recognizing the key role intellectual capital must play in positioning Indiana for a successful future. The economic prosperity and overall quality of life of our state will depend to a great extent on the kind of people who choose to live here.

In announcing the grants, Sara Cobb, the Endowment's vice president for education, said, "This new initiative is aimed at addressing the need to recruit and/or retain the most talented faculty, administrators and students so that the synergies and excitement that bright and open minds can create together in classrooms and labs and communities will have a leveraging effect on the excellence of these schools, their faculties and students. Although there is certainly impressive intellectual talent and energy on Indiana campuses, more is needed."

At Purdue, we see this program as a perfect partner for our strategic plan, which is designed to bring to our campuses exactly the kind of people Lilly Endowment wants to attract to Indiana. The university already is about halfway to its goal of adding 300 new full-time positions to the faculty, and each year the quality of our entering class – as measured by standardized tests and academic performance – goes up.

If Purdue and its fellow colleges and universities respond well to this challenge – and I'm confident we will – Indiana will take an important stride toward becoming a place where talented, creative, highly educated and ambitious people will want to live and work.

As important as the Lilly Endowment program is, it is only a small piece of a very large puzzle that Indiana's leaders must put together. Business, state and local governments, civic groups and public schools, as well as universities, must work together to create the kind of environment that will motivate bright, entrepreneurial people to put down roots here. The Endowment has made a ringing statement that intellectual capital is our most valuable asset, but this investment must be thought of as seed money. We have a lot more cultivation ahead of us.

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One of Purdue's most able and dedicated servants will be leaving the university later this year. Ken Burns, executive vice president and treasurer, informed me in February that he will retire on August 31 after more than 37 years with Purdue. Ken has been the architect and overseer of an annual budget that now is about $1.4 billion. The fact that Purdue is recognized nationally for its skillful management of resources is due in large part to his leadership and financial acumen.

Purdue is a highly complex organization, and Ken understands it very well. He also knows how to utilize resources to maximum effect in an academic enterprise. He has helped make this a better university, and, while I regret that we will no longer have his services, I can only celebrate a career that has been stellar in every respect.