Packing a Punch at Purdue

Purdue University doesn’t need me to make the case for its importance to the state of Indiana and beyond. It has thousands of professors, students, research leaders, and business men and women doing that every day.

But despite at least three-plus decades of personal experience (starting with a cousin who graduated from the university and still serves on the faculty in the veterinary medicine school to more than a few athletic contests, including covering the top-ranked basketball team in 1987-88), a half-day on campus earlier this month reinforced the impact being made in West Lafayette and throughout the state.

Just a few observations:

  • Discovery Park is a nice name with a clear mission. Behind the name are five leading centers, all opening between 2004 and 2009 and featuring $205 million in private donations, bringing together experts from a variety of disciplines who are working together on our future. The learning opportunities for students are nearly endless.
  • Purdue Research Parks: There is the largest gathering of technology companies in the state in West Lafayette and growing enterprises in Merrillville, New Albany and Indianapolis (AmeriPlex complex near the airport).
  • The Technical Assistance Program has been working with Indiana companies for 24 years. It drives immediate improvements in companies, training employees, increasing sales and retaining/creating jobs. And now it is doing so in the manufacturing, energy, health care and green sectors, among others.
  • And while others might come to mind first when thinking about education, Purdue’s I-STEM Resource Network and role as one of four homes for the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship program are critical. I-STEM is a partnership that includes 19 institutions, K-12 schools, business and government with the bottom line of improving outcomes for students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies.

One of my absolute favorite people in 12-plus years in this position was former Purdue President Martin Jischke. He was the driving force behind most of the entities mentioned above, as well as numerous others. Today’s leaders and practitioners are carrying the ball forward.

We’ll continue to help tell the Purdue stories in the months and years ahead. It was good to be reminded about the excellent work taking place there during the recent visit.

And will the 2010-2011 basketball triplets (Hummel, Moore and Johnson) equal or exceed the exploits of Troy Lewis, Todd Mitchell and Everette Stephens from 23 years ago? We’ll have to wait and see on that one.