Dear Purdue Partners,
In December, Purdue learned that the deans of two of our colleges will be leaving the university to pursue new opportunities. These announcements cause me to reflect on the special challenges of leading an enterprise whose strength depends almost entirely on the recruitment and retention of talented people.
Linda Katehi, Purdue's John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering, has been named provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. John Pezzuto, Dean of the College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences, will become the founding dean of the University of Hawaii at Hilo's new College of Pharmacy. Both deans have been with Purdue since 2002 long enough to make a significant impact, but not long enough to reach all the goals they and the university had set.
The loss of a key member of the leadership team is always difficult for an organization, and, at Purdue, Pharmacy and Engineering are among our flagship academic programs consistently ranked among the top 10 in the nation and greatly respected by the companies and organizations that hire their graduates.
In searching for successors to Linda and John, we will be looking for people who are internationally respected in their disciplines and who can provide leadership that will assure the continued success of these colleges.
When a university recruits people with the talent and motivation to lead world-class programs to even higher levels of achievement, it competes not only with its peer institutions, but also with businesses, government agencies and other organizations, all of which place a high premium on their services.
Often, the rewards of working at a university like Purdue and living in the kind of community of which we are a part will motivate a person to put down roots and spend the rest of his or her career here. But exciting leaders frequently are presented with exciting new career opportunities. Linda Katehi will become the chief academic officer at one America's great universities. John Pezzuto will have a chance to build a new pharmacy program from the ground up. Both are making important career moves that will allow them to fulfill some of their dreams and utilize their talents in unique ways.
As an administrator, I recognize that the qualities that make a candidate attractive to Purdue are just as evident to other institutions, and I anticipate that good people will be recruited almost constantly. This is true not only of deans and other administrators, but of faculty members and many staff employees, as well.
Although many complex factors enter into the recruiting process, the fundamental reality that determines success is the type of university we are. Being strong and financially stable puts Purdue in a good starting position. Being a university with a long-standing reputation for excellence is very important.
But the most important question we must answer is whether this university is a place where important things are happening. Exceptional people want to be part of exceptional events. As we have recruited people to lead our programs and to fill the 300 new faculty positions being created under Purdue's strategic plan, we have aimed high, and we have enjoyed remarkable success in attracting people who have tremendous potential or who are already doing outstanding work at excellent institutions. The message we hear from them over and over is that Purdue has an atmosphere of momentum and a sense of purpose that no other university can match.
They are excited by the success of our strategic plans, including the expansion of faculty and improvement of facilities, by the tremendous potential of Discovery Park as a hub of interdisciplinary research, by our commitment to be a partner with the state and its communities in economic development efforts, by the quality of our faculty and student body, and by our determination to make Purdue an even better university.
I am convinced that the progress under the strategic plan and the high energy of the campus and its people are the most important factors in attracting outstanding talent to Purdue. Recruiting requires hard work, and it can be a delicate process, but as long as we can give people the opportunity to fulfill their potential and work with others who are similarly gifted and motivated, we will continue to be successful. And that will keep Purdue moving on the path to preeminence.
Purdue had an exciting and successful 2005, and I am very optimistic about the next 12 months. As we begin 2006, please accept my best wishes for a great new year!
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