sealPurdue News

February 17, 2003

Purdue alumni pledge to meet first Bindley Chair Challenge

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue's first academic chair to be created by a matching gift program – established by the largest individual donation to the university – was announced today (Monday, 2/17) as part of National Engineers Week.

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Christopher B. Burke and his wife, Susan, both Purdue graduates, pledged to endow the Christopher B. Burke Professorship in Civil Engineering. Burke earned his bachelor's degree in 1977, his master's in 1979 and a doctorate in 1983, all from Purdue. Susan Burke is a 1978 School of Liberal Arts graduate. The couple lives in of Naperville, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

The Burkes' pledge comes in response to a challenge from Indianapolis business and civic leader William E. Bindley and his wife, Mary Ann. The Bindley Chair Challenge allots $22.5 million to match other gifts and pledges to create 15 endowed chairs at $1.5 million each throughout the university. As a result of Burke's contribution, the School of Civil Engineering will have two new academic chairs, one in Burke's name and one in Bindley's.

"I am happy to be in a position to give something back and meet Bill Bindley's unique challenge," said Burke, who will the fund the chair over a 10-year period.

"Obviously I've spent a lot of time at Purdue, and I have valued the opportunities I was presented and the friends I have made at the university. I knew this would be a great opportunity for the School of Civil Engineering and that if I was going to do something, now was a good time to do it."

Burke also said he appreciated the strong emphasis placed on engineering in the university’s strategic plan, adding that his commitment was fixed as much on the future as it was rooted in the past.

The Burkes' daughter, Megan, is a freshman engineering student at Purdue.

"Susan and I continue to benefit a great deal from my Purdue engineering education," Burke said. "We hope these two new chairs will keep or attract outstanding educators who can help the school train tomorrow's top civil engineers. The world's challenges are great. We need to create opportunities that lead to excellence."

The Bindley Chair Challenge originated last September when the Bindleys gave Purdue a $52.5 million gift – the largest by a single individual in Purdue history. Most of the money – $45 million – is a deferred gift to fund endowments for faculty chairs, student scholarships and fellowships, and academic programs, including the $22.5 million in matching funds to create the endowed chairs. The gift also includes $7.5 million that will cover one half of the construction cost for a new bioscience research center at Purdue's Discovery Park.

"We are grateful to Chris Burke for meeting this two-for-one Bindley Chair Challenge – it's what we might call a 'chair-and-chair alike' program," said Purdue President Martin C. Jischke.

"The vision and generosity of the Bindleys and the Burkes are building the foundation for our vision of preeminence in the School of Civil Engineering and a better future for all of us in our state, nation and beyond. How fitting it is we celebrate the first Bindley Chair Challenge and the Christopher Burke professorship during National Engineers Week."

Jischke said that in today's competitive academic environment, universities need endowed academic chairs and professorships to reward, retain and recruit top scholars for their exceptional performance in teaching, research and service.

Underscoring their strategic importance, Jischke called endowed professorships the ultimate peer recognition for faculty and "one of the measures of a world-class university."

According to Purdue's strategic plan, the university has goals to raise $200 million for student scholarships, $200 million to attract and retain top faculty, $200 million for programs and centers, $600 million for facilities and equipment, and $100 million in unrestricted funds.

"The Schools of Engineering are fortunate that we have dedicated and farsighted alumni who share and help shape our vision of excellence in engineering," said Linda P.B. Katehi, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering.

Fred L. Mannering, head of the School of Civil Engineering, said the Bindley Challenge has given the school a great opportunity to help achieve its strategic goals.

"The importance of this opportunity for civil engineering can not be underestimated," Mannering said. "This pledge is a big step toward our goal to have 20 percent of our faculty in endowed chairs. We are very grateful to the Bindleys and the Burkes."

Following his Purdue education, Burke established a career as an urban hydrologist and environmental engineer. He founded Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd., in 1986. A recognized expert in water resources, Burke teaches hydraulics and hydrology courses as a guest lecturer at Purdue. He also teaches at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he is an adjunct faculty member.

He is a charter member of the Civil Engineering Advisory Council, the Civil Engineering Campaign Committee and has taken leadership roles, particularly with Chicagoland alumni, and in other fund-raising campaigns.

Burke also has sponsored student and faculty awards, including the Rosemary K. Burke and Edmund M. Burke awards in tribute to his parents.

The Burkes' philanthropy created the Christopher & Susan Burke Hydraulic Laboratory, which was dedicated in 1999, to train future generations of Purdue civil engineers.

The Burkes also donate time, expertise and financial support to their Chicago-area community.

National Engineers Week at Purdue continues with a mix of activities on campus for students, engineering societies, alumni and corporations. At 10 a.m. Wednesday (2/19) in Purdue Memorial Union, Room 118, Purdue will announce a gift to the School of Mechanical Engineering.

Students and alumni also will be recognized at numerous events scheduled throughout the week, culminating with the Western Society of Engineers' Chicagoland Engineering Awards Benefit on Friday (2/21) in Chicago.

The society will present the 90th Washington Award to Purdue alumnus and astronaut Eugene Cernan. Burke will be master of ceremonies for the event.

Writer: Grant Flora, (765) 494-2073,

Sources: Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Linda P.B. Katehi, (765) 494-5346,

Fred L. Mannering, (765) 494-2159,

Don Fry, director of development, School of Civil Engineering, (765) 494-2236,

Cindy Lawley, engineering development and alumni relations assistant director, (765) 496-6929,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Purdue President Martin C. Jischke (left) thanks Christopher B. Burke and his wife, Susan, both Purdue graduates, for pledging to endow the Christopher B. Burke Professorship in Civil Engineering. Linda P.B. Katehi, (foreground) Purdue's John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering, joins in the salute on the West Lafayette campus today (2/17). The Burkes, of Naperville, Ill., also received the Distinguished Pinnancle Award, Purdue's highest recognition of support. (News Service Photo by David Umberger)

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