Purdue awarded more than 2,500 degrees at two commencement ceremonies on the West Lafayette campus on December 20. Another 450 students were graduated on December 17 at the Calumet campus in Hammond. All told, Purdue granted some 11,500 degrees systemwide in the 1998calendar year.
A very special moment for me was the presentation of an honorary doctorate to Alan Pritsker. In many ways, Dr. Pritsker embodies the economic development potential of universities. He was affiliated with Purdue's School of Industrial Engineering for nearly 30 years, while also establishing a pioneering specialized software firm based in the Purdue Research Park.
In 1973, working with two industrial engineering graduate students, Dr. Pritsker founded Pritsker & Associates, which now is internationally known for its development of simulation and scheduling software for use primarily in the industrial and manufacturing sectors.
Throughout his successful career, Alan has remained a loyal and productive partner of Purdue, an advocate for higher education, and a supportive member of the Greater Lafayette community. I have been privileged to count him as a personal friend.
Although I have participated in more than 100 commencement ceremonies at West Lafayette, I never fail to be moved by the occasion. The Purdue commencement traditionally focuses on the new graduates and their families. Every student crosses the stage to receive a diploma, and each one is photographed individually. The Commencement Committee, chaired by Marlesa Roney, University registrar, does a remarkable job of planning and executing the ceremonies.
An ill wind blew across the West Lafayette campus on the evening of December 6. University Hall, Purdue's oldest building and one of our most treasured landmarks, was badly damaged when a gust tore away part of the roof, scattering debris across Memorial Mall and rupturing a water pipe.
Fortunately, no one was injured. But that wasn't the only good news. University Hall contains 16 classrooms, all of which were scheduled for use several times the day after the storm. Thanks to some quick work by the staff of the Office of Space Management and Academic Scheduling, all the displaced class sections had been reassigned to alternate space by 8 a.m. the next day, and the academic disruption was minimal. Temporary repairs will allow classes to resume in University Hall when the spring semester starts January 11, and final repairs will be done next summer.
Purdue's second consecutive trip to the Builders Square Alamo Bowl in San Antonio was a tremendous success and a memorable experience for the Boilermaker fans who attended. The Boilermakers' 37-34 victory over an outstanding Kansas State team surprised the football experts -- and almost everyone else -- and the team's gallant effort on national television provided a tremendous boost for Coach Joe Tiller's program.
The conventional wisdom in college football marketing is that a university returning to a bowl site for a second consecutive year will experience a significant decrease in fan participation. The Purdue community has proven that assumption wrong. In 1997, our alumni and fans set a Big Ten Alamo Bowl record by buying some 16,000 tickets for the game. As I write this the totals are not yet official for 1998, but it's clear that the final numbers will be comparable.
Beyond the game itself, the bowl trip was a wonderful experience for the University family and for many others who adopted the Boilermakers. San Antonio is a wonderful venue with a cosmopolitan atmosphere; easy access to hotels, restaurants, shopping, and tourist attractions; and well-organized activities. We also were blessed with excellent weather throughout the visit.
Prior to the trip, the University and Coach Tiller agreed to a contract extension that will allow him to continue to build on his success well into the 21st century.
The new millennium is fast approaching. Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful 1999!