Less than 48 hours after she took the court for the NCAA championship basketball game, Stephanie White-McCarty was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa on the Purdue campus. It might surprise some people that an athlete can compete at the highest collegiate level, lead her team to a national championship, become a consensus All-American, and be a good enough student to be elected to our nation's most prestigious academic honorary society, while earning her bachelor's degree in four years.
Anyone who knows Stephanie understands her commitment to excellence in everything she does, but the truly remarkable thing about this story is that her academic achievements are not unique among the members of the Boilermaker team that finished its season as NCAA champion on March 28. She is one of seven players who qualified last fall for Semester Honors or the Dean's List, which require a grade-point average of at least 3.5 on Purdue's 4.0 system. The others were Camille Cooper, Candi Crawford Katie Douglas, Michelle Duhart, Amy Shaffer, and Tiffany Young. The cumulative average of the 16 women on the team's roster was an amazing 3.2!
This performance is a tribute, not only to these outstanding young women, but also to Coach Carolyn Peck and her staff. They disprove the notion that competitive athletics are inconsistent with a university education. Very few students can have the kind of experience the Purdue women's basketball team had en route to its national championship, but the team's achievement reverberated throughout the entire student body and the university community. Anyone who followed it was uplifted by the experience.
Because certain sports -- especially basketball and football in the collegiate arena -- have become major components in the sports entertainment industry, they present special challenges to students, coaches, and administrators. We have to manage very carefully to avoid abuses and make sure that academics remain the first priority. This is not easy, but it is not impossible either.
Athletic Director Morgan Burke has made it a goal to have student-athletes' cumulative grade-point average at least as high as that of the overall student body. He has achieved that goal, and the athletes' index is still rising. It can be done with hard work and a strong commitment.
Accolades have been plentiful in the days since the team won its championship, but Morgan's contribution sometimes is overlooked. The success starts with the strong leadership he has given to Purdue athletics. He has made tough decisions and visionary appointments. The results speak for themselves.
Several Purdue graduate programs fared very well in rankings issued recently by U. S. News and World Report magazine. Programs in industrial/manufacturing engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace/aeronautical engineering, electrical engineering, and nuclear engineering all ranked among the top ten in the country in their categories. Purdue and the University of Michigan were the only Big Ten universities whose overall engineering programs ranked in the top ten.
Purdue's Krannert Graduate School of Management has moved steadily upward in rankings of programs that grant business master's degrees. This year, U. S. News and World Report places the school 20th in the nation, while ranking it 10th in the area of quantitative analysis and 15th for its executive master's program.
For the first time, the magazine this year ranked graduate programs in science, and Purdue achieved top 25 or better status in computer science, chemistry, and mathematics. In the area of analytical chemistry, Purdue was ranked No. 1 in the country.
Rankings of universities -- whether by the news media, education groups, or professional interests -- are at best imperfect. It is frankly impossible to evaluate hundreds of constantly changing programs with a great degree of accuracy. However, the rankings that receive national distribution have become an important factor in the recruitment of both students and faculty, so we are learning to live with them.
In an earlier letter, I talked about the remarkable economic development the state of Georgia achieved in recent years under former Gov. Zell Miller. On April 12, Gov. Miller will speak in Indianapolis at a luncheon at the Artsgarden, sponsored jointly by Purdue and Indiana University. Gov. Frank O'Bannon will introduce him, and many other governmental and business leaders will be on hand. Gov. Miller is an outstanding speaker with a powerful message. It should be a great experience.
The academic year is drawing quickly to a close. We have entered the season when students are torn between the allure of spring weather and the demands of their classes as final exams approach. I hope all of them maintain the proper balance.
Steven C. Beering