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Purdue University

Purdue University is a public land-grant university system within the state of Indiana. Purdue’s main academic campus is located in the city of West Lafayette, on the banks of the Wabash River. Satellite campuses are located in Hammond, Fort Wayne, Westville, and other cities. Purdue also has three campuses affiliated with Indiana University, and Purdue’s School of Technology has seven satellite locations throughout Indiana. With 18,209 acres (74 km&sup2) and over 69,000 students, Purdue is one of the largest university systems in the United States. The university is particularly noted for its engineering, agriculture, and business programs, which consistently rank among the best in the country. Purdue is also home to the state of Indiana's school of veterinary medicine, and a number of research facilities, including Discovery Park.



Founding and early years

In July of 1862 President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law, offering public lands to any state that would establish and maintain a college for the purpose of teaching agriculture and mechanics. In 1865, the Indiana General Assembly took advantage of this offer, and began plans to establish such an institution. The state of Indiana received a gift of $150,000 from John Purdue, a Lafayette business leader and philanthropist, along with $50,000 from Tippecanoe County, and 150 acres (.6 km&sup2) of land from Lafayette residents in support of the project. In 1869, it was decided that the college would be founded near the city of Lafayette and established as Purdue University, in the name of the institution’s principle benefactor.

Classes first began at Purdue in the fall of 1874 with three buildings, six instructors, and 39 students. Purdue issued its first degree, a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry, in 1875. The first female students were admitted to the university in the fall of the same year. By 1883 enrollment had increased beyond 350, and by the turn of the twentieth century Purdue had begun a period of active expansion: scholarship standards were raised, courses were expanded, and equipment was improved.


Although the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics was not formally established until 1945, Purdue and the greater Lafayette community have a long history in the field of aviation. Since the earliest days of the University, students, faculty, and staff have played major, and often instrumental, roles in the history of aerospace.

In 1910, Dr. Cicero Veal, professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue, organized the Purdue Aero Club. In the summer of 1911 the club hosted Aviation Day, the Lafayette community's first aircraft demonstration. The event, sponsored by Purdue alumni, attracted an estimated 17,000 onlookers and enthusiasts, and was the first of many such exhibitions at Purdue.

J. Clifford Turpin, from the class of 1908, was the first Purdue graduate to become an aviator, and received flight instruction from Orville Wright himself. In 1919 George W. Haskins became the first alumnus to land an aircraft on campus. He arrived from Dayton, Ohio with a proposal to establish a School of Aviation Engineering at Purdue. Although it would be several years before a separate school would be established, Purdue did begin offering technical electives in aeronautical engineering within the School of Mechanical Engineering in 1921.

In 1930 Purdue became the first university in the country to offer college credit for flight training, and later became the first to open its own airport. Famed aviator Amelia Earhart came to Purdue in 1935 and served as a "Counselor on Careers for Women," a staff position she held until her disappearance in 1937. Purdue also played a central role in Earhart's ill-fated "Flying Laboratory" project, providing funds for the Lockheed L-10 Electra aircraft she intended to fly around the world. Purdue libraries maintain an extensive Earhart collection, which is still studied by those seeking to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

As a result of the expansion in technical education prompted by World War II, the aeronautical engineering electives in mechanical engineering were expanded to create a full four-year degree program in 1941 within the newly-rechristened School of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering. Later, other training programs for the war were introduced that eventually lead to the formation of an independent School of Aeronautics in 1945. The school initially offered undergraduate degrees in both aeronautical engineering and the new field of air transportation, and issued its first graduate degrees in 1947. The programs were popular among returning veterans in the years following World War II, bringing total undergraduate enrollment to 736 students. The school adopted its present name in 1973.

Over the past ten years, Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics has awarded more aerospace engineering degrees than any other institution in the country, issuing 6 percent of all undergraduate degrees and 7 percent of all Ph.D. degrees.

Traditions and legends


Since the 1890s, the term ‘Boilermaker’ has been synonymous with Purdue. The name has been applied to Purdue organizations (athletic and otherwise), institutions, and individuals alike, and has come to be the official nickname for all things Purdue.

The name that has become such a big part of the identity of the university has its origins in the words of a nineteenth century sportswriter. In 1891, the Purdue football team was first referred to as the "Boiler Makers" by a Crawfordsville, Indiana reporter who wrote about the team’s 44-0 victory over local rival Wabash College. Soon afterward, Lafayette newspapers were using the name, and in 1892 the student newspaper announced its approval of the 'boilermaker'. Before the widespread adoption of ‘Boilermaker,’ Purdue was also sometimes referred to as the home of the "haymakers," the "rail-splitters," the "sluggers," or the "cornfield sailors."

Mascots, logos, and colors

In the more than 130 years since the founding of the university, several mascots have emerged in support of the Boilermaker athletic teams, including: The Boilermaker Special, Purdue Pete, and more recently, Rowdy.

The Boilermaker Special, a locomotive, has been the official mascot of Purdue athletics since the 1930s. The latest generation of the mascot, the Boilermaker Special V, was dedicated during the halftime show of the 1993 football game versus Notre Dame at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium.

Though not the official mascot, Purdue Pete is one of the most recognized symbols of Purdue University. Pete was originally developed in 1940 as an advertising logo for the University Bookstore. Eventually, the popularity of the image grew among the Purdue community, and the advertisement evolved into a full character, complete with costume and mallet. By 1956 Purdue Pete was at the center of activity at Boilermaker athletic events, as entertainer and energizer. As a matter of tradition, the modern mallet-wielding Boilermaker character always appears in a #1 jersey. Purdue's newest symbol, Rowdy, was introducted in 1997 during the first home football game of the season. The inflatable mascot, made of parachute material, stands nearly 10 feet (3 meters) tall, and represents a young boy who hopes to become a Purdue Boilermaker.

In 1969 the Purdue University Board of Trustees approved the official seal of Purdue as part of the university’s centennial celebration. The seal, designed by Purdue professor Al Gowan, replaced one that had been used informally for more than 70 years. The seal features a stylized griffin, which in medieval heraldry symbolizes strength. The words 'Purdue University' are set in Uncial typeface above the griffin, and below the three-part shield represents the three stated aims of the university: education, research, and service. The seal is generally reserved for more formal usage than the logos of the Boilermaker Special, or Purdue Pete.

Purdue University adopted its school colors, Old Gold and Black, in the fall of 1887. The distinctive colors were inspired by those of Princeton University, at the time the leader in college football, whose colors were black and orange.

School songs

The official fight song of Purdue University, “Hail Purdue!”, was composed in 1912 by alumni Edward Wotawa (music) and James Morrison (lyrics) as the "Purdue War Song." "Hail Purdue" was copyrighted in 1913 and dedicated to the Varsity Glee Club. The lyrics are as follows:

Hail, hail to old Purdue!

All hail to our old gold and black!

Hail, hail to old Purdue!

Our friendship may she never lack,

Ever grateful ever true,

Thus we raise our song anew,

Of the days we've spent with you,

All hail our own Purdue.

In 1993 the Purdue Board of Trustees approved the "Purdue Hymn" as the official alma mater of the university. The lyrics and music were written by Alfred Kirchhoff in 1941. The University Choir first performed the hymn in 1943, during convocation in the Edward C. Elliot Hall of Music. The lyrics are as follows:

Close by the Wabash in famed Hoosier land

Stands old Purdue, serene and grand.

Cherished in memory by all

Her sons and daughters true,

Fair alma mater,

All hail Purdue! Fairest in all the land,

Our own Purdue!

Fairest in all the land, our own Purdue!


Like many institutions with long and rich histories, Purdue University is steeped in legend. Many of these legends are so outlandish, it is difficult to believe they are still in circulation. Below is a selection of the most popular legends.

  • A legend connected with benefactor John Purdue asserts that his donation carried the stipulation that all permanent university buildings must be built of brick or his entire gift reverts to Purdue's heirs. Although this claim cannot be substantiated, it is apparently contradicted by two university buildings. Though both Krannert and Rawls halls on the West Lafayette campus are limestone buildings, both halls had brick included in their foundations in keeping with the 'red brick' tradition.
  • One of the more bizarre, yet most commonly heard, legends on campus concerns the integrity of the Purdue Bell Tower. The legend claims that when construction of the tower was completed in 1995 it was discovered that the tower was structurally flawed, and as a result the bells could not ring without risking collapse. Project leaders supposedly had a speaker system installed to imitate the sound of ringing bells. However, the bells in the modern tower are in fact fully functional, and chime regularly thanks to computer-controlled mallets.
  • There are also a number of legends that periodically circulate on campus that involve benefactor John Purdue’s grave, which is located on campus per his final requests. The legends range from silly to macabre and many involve students from rival Indiana University participating in grave robbing and other acts of desecration. These, of course, are also untrue.
  • Another legend purports to offer an explanation of the Boilermaker moniker. The legend tells of two Purdue football coaches that would not accept the scrawny volunteers that came out for the team. According to the legend, the coaches gathered a number of boilermakers from the Monon Railroad Shops, enrolled them in one class each, and added them to the team. Though this story cannot be corroborated, it has been a favorite folk legend among some of the administration.


Board of trustees

When Purdue University was established in 1869, the Indiana General Assembly created a Board of Trustees having, by law, full governance and control of the university. The laws of the state of Indiana require that the trustees: provide a seal, have power to appoint and remove all professors and teachers, regulate faculty and staff compensations, do anything necessary and expedient to put and keep the university in operation, and make all bylaws, rules, and regulations necessary to conduct and manage the university. The authority and responsibility of the Board of Trustees can be changed only by legislative acts of the Indiana General Assembly. The Board of Trustees consists of ten members (including one student of the university), as appointed by the governor of Indiana. Each member serves for a term of three years, except the student member who serves for two years. Current board members include:


President Martin C. Jischke, appointed by the Board of Trustees, is the chief administrative officer of the university. He is responsible for organizing and establishing the administrative staff of the university not otherwise established by the trustees, and delegating to each administrative office with appropriate duties and responsibilities. The office of the president oversees admission and registration, student conduct and counseling, the administration and scheduling of classes and space, the administration of student athletics and organized extracurricular activities, the libraries, the appointment of the faculty and conditions of their employment, the appointment of all non-faculty employees and the conditions of employment, the general organization of the university, and the planning and administration of the university budget.

The Board of Trustees directly appoints other major officers of the university including a Provost who serves as the chief academic officer for the university, a number of vice presidents with oversight over specific university operations, and the statellite campus chancellors.

Past presidents

  • Richard Owen, 1872-1874
  • Abraham C. Shortridge, 1874-1875
  • John Hougham, acting president, 1876
  • Emerson E. White, 1876-1883
  • James Henry Smart, 1883-1900
  • Winthrop E. Stone, 1900-1921
  • Henry W. Marshall, acting president, 1921-1922
  • Edward C. Elliott, 1922-1945
  • Andrey A. Potter, acting president, 1945-1946
  • Frederick L. Hovde, 1946-1971
  • Arthur G. Hansen, 1971-1982
  • John W. Hicks, acting president, 1982-1983
  • Steven C. Beering, 1983-2000
  • Martin C. Jischke, 2000-Present


Purdue University's traditional strengths have been in agriculture and engineering. Many of the university's other schools have gained repute over the years.

  • Krannert School of Management ranks 8th among public universities according to Business Week
  • Krannert School of Management's MBA was ranked 1st by regional corporate recruiters in the Wall Street Journal
  • Purdue's College of Engineering ranks 8th in the nation by US News & World Report
  • Purdue's industrial/manufacturing program ranks 2nd in the nation
  • The School of Industrial Engineering was 3rd by US News & World Report
  • Purdue's School of Technology is the largest producer of engineering technology graduates among public universities in the United States
  • Purdue was the birthplace of the nation’s first academic program in computer science.
  • Although not academic, Purdue's research park was ranked first by the Association of University Research Parks in 2004 or 2005.


Purdue is home to 18 Division I-A NCAA teams including football, basketball, cross country, tennis, wrestling, golf, volleyball and others. Purdue is a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, and played a central role in its creation. Traditional rivals include Big Ten colleagues the Indiana Hoosiers and the Illinois Fighting Illini, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from the Big East Conference. The Boilermakers battle the Hoosiers on the football field each year to win the Old Oaken Bucket, Purdue leads the series first played in 1925, 66-35-6.

The Boilermaker men's and women's basketball teams have won more Big Ten Championships than any other conference school, with 27 conference banners, including a league-leading 21 for the men’s team. Men’s head coach Gene Keady coached his final season with the Boilermakers in the 20042005 season after 25 years with the Boilermakers. Coach Keady became Purdue's all-time-winningest coach on December 6, 1997. In his years at Purdue, Keady has led the Boilermakers to more than 500 victories.

The Boilermaker football team, once a minor player in the conference, has enjoyed a significant resurgence in recent years under the leadership head coach Joe Tiller . Before Tiller joined the Boilers as the 33rd head coach in 1996, the team had not seen a bowl game since 1984. The team has made a bowl appearance every year of Tiller’s leadership. After his first season at Purdue, Tiller was named National Coach of the Year by both Football News and Kickoff magazines, the GTE Region 3 Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association and the Big Ten Dave McClain Coach of the Year.

Notable alumni and faculty

Purdue University has long been associated with accomplished and distinguished students and faculty. Purdue alumni have headed corporations, held federal offices, founded television networks, and flown through space. Purdue’s distinguished faculty have won Nobel prizes, solved long-standing riddles in science, headed government agencies, and received countless awards.

Purdue alumni have an especially strong relationship with NASA and the space program. All together, Purdue has produced 22 astronauts, including the first and last men to walk on the moon. Over one third of all of NASA's manned space missions have had at least one Purdue graduate as a crew member. The only other non-military institution that has more alumni who have become astronauts is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). These alumni have led significant advances in research and development of aerospace technology and established an amazing record for exploration of space.

Accomplished alumni

Distinguished faculty

External links and references

Last updated: 05-07-2005 16:44:20
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04