I approach my first anniversary in the Purdue president's office with a rich mixture of emotions and reactions to my first year at this remarkable University.
When I started work in West Lafayette on August 14, 2000, I believed I was coming to one of America's great centers of higher education. That belief has been affirmed over and over again as I have gotten to know the professors, students, staff members, alumni, and others who make up the University community. Purdue truly is an outstanding institution that has achieved an extraordinary level of excellence by any standard. But its quality became even more impressive to me as I realized that it has been accomplished with relatively scarce resources. Almost every university that would be considered a peer of Purdue's spends significantly more money on the education of each student.
The Purdue culture deeply ingrained over the decades has been to strive to make every program among the best in the country and to do it as efficiently as possible. While the people involved with the University from the trustees to the undergraduate students believe deeply in its excellence, they continue to aspire to make the institution even better to take Purdue to the next level. I hear this again and again as I interact with Purdue people, and this makes me very excited about the opportunity to lead such an organization. The University is full of talented, goal-oriented people who believe deeply in higher education as a force for change.
This makes for a highly stimulating environment that will test my capacity to lead. I like that situation. If I am going make a positive difference at Purdue, I will have to be at my best, and I enjoy that challenge. I'm convinced that this first year was the beginning of the most satisfying period of my career in higher education.
Any 12-month period at a major university will include a mixture of high and low points, but there's no question that the low points were few and far between for me this year, while I have pleasant memories from almost every day.
Some of the highlights:
Enrollment of the best-prepared freshman class in the University's history. All the measurements standardized test scores, class rank, number of valedictorians were up for the class that entered in the fall of 2000. Preliminary information indicates that the 2001 class will rank even higher.
The assembling of an excellent management team. In addition to a strong group of veteran Purdue administrators, we were able to fill some key openings with outstanding people. Sally Frost Mason came aboard as provost, Murray Blackwelder as senior vice president for advancement, Howard Cohen as chancellor of Purdue Calumet, Jim Bottum as vice president for information services, and Rab Mukerjea as director of strategic planning. In every case, we held a national search and hired our first choice for the position.
A record year in private fund raising. As I discussed in last month's letter, Purdue topped $170 million $50 million more than the target I had set. In addition, research and other sponsored programs hit a high of $190 million.
Significant progress on campus improvements. On the West Lafayette campus, we have nearly 50 construction projects, valued at $69 million, under way. Significantly more building is on the horizon.
A great year for Boilermaker athletics. It started with a Rose Bowl season in football and numerous high points followed, including a trip to the national championship for our women's basketball team.
Can we keep it up? I'm convinced that, as we move forward under a strategic plan that will be completed this fall, Purdue will get even better. We are ready for a new level of excellence, and my first year in West Lafayette has left me eager for the next one.