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May 7, 2007

Trustee chairman: Córdova resume 'Out of this world'

This is an excerpt from the comments that J. Timothy McGinley, chairman of the Purdue University board of trustees, made during the trustees meeting an announcement of France Anne Córdova as the university's 11th president.

Good morning. I am Tim McGinley, chairman of the Purdue University board of trustees. I will call this meeting to order. Let the minutes show that all members of the Board of Trustees are present. Before we begin our meeting, I'd like to make a brief statement.

We appreciate all of you joining us today, and it's wonderful to have such an enthusiastic group here as we launch a new era for Purdue.

Purdue faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends are incredible. You have helped us accomplish a great deal.

Seven years ago, the board asked the Purdue community to support our new president in an effort to take Purdue to the next level. You met and exceeded our expectations. Now, we are ready to set an even higher target as we move toward preeminence. We are all ready for the next giant step in the history of our university.

This is a public, special meeting of the board of trustees, called and legally advertised for the purpose of selecting the next president of Purdue. No prior votes have been taken on this issue.

We are meeting this morning in Loeb Theater instead of our usual location on the third floor of Stewart Center. Holding our meeting here enables us accommodate the large number of people who want to be part of this important, historic day.

Last August, Purdue's 10th president, Martin Jischke, announced he would retire from the university effective July 1. He has done a remarkable job in his seven years leading our university. We are very appreciative.

Upon his announcement, I immediately appointed a presidential search committee, co-chaired by trustees John Hardin and Mike Birck. This committee has worked very hard over the past nine months to bring us to this moment today.

Speaking for everyone at Purdue, my thanks to John and Mike and all who served on this committee for their splendid work. We deeply appreciate what you have accomplished. Please join me in recognizing all members of this committee.

As you can imagine, the selection of a new president is among the most important responsibilities of any board of trustees. Finding the right person is a difficult, time-consuming and pressure-filled task.

This board has been diligent and committed. We have sought unity, and we are enthusiastic about the candidate we are presenting this morning. Please join me in thanking the members of this board.

Finally, let me thank those in the audience and the entire Purdue community for your patience and support of our process. You made our job easier and the results are reflected in this candidate.

In looking for a new president, we followed the same procedure we used seven years ago. But we were in a better position this time with more experience.

Our process included a university review of our strategic plan. This revealed accomplishments and work yet to be done. A consultant met with 30 university leaders to learn their ideas for the future and reported to the board. The board met with national higher education leaders, state leaders and many Purdue constituencies for their input. And, the board spent many hours in discussion. The result was a list of 12 strategic initiatives for the future. Among them:

        First - Continued expansion of our research capacity and sponsored programs that emphasize interdisciplinary teams.

        Second - Leading a new strategic planning process and implementing that plan.

        Third - Continued growth of financial resources from all revenue sources.

        Fourth - Continued improvement of faculty quality and compensation.

        Fifth - Further enhancing Purdue's role in Indiana's economic development.

        And sixth - Recognizing the importance of the university's land-grant missions for learning, discovery and engagement.

In summary, we are moving in the right direction at the right speed. Let us continue and accelerate.

The board also developed desired characteristics for a new president. Nine were essential; seven were highly desirable. These were traits such as:

                * Proven leadership,

                * outstanding communication skills,

                * experience in private fundraising,

                * success in working with state and

                   local government,

                  *and champion of diversity.

It was against these initiatives and characteristics that all candidates were tested.

The final candidates we reviewed were outstanding. Purdue has a long and great history. Our university has been extraordinarily well-served by 10 presidents, each of whom proved to be the right person for their time.

As accomplished as our past has been, I am even more excited about the future and the momentum we are launching today.

It is my honor to introduce the woman who will lead this university forward to capture the incredible opportunities that are emerging from all that we have accomplished. You will see why the trustees are so impressed.

Dr. Córdova is an internationally recognized astrophysicist. She comes to us from the University of California, Riverside, where she has served and distinguished herself as chancellor since 2002. The University of California, Riverside is a sister land-grant university with Purdue.

Prior to being named chancellor at Riverside, she was vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a professor of physics. Before her university service, she was the youngest person to hold the position of NASA chief scientist, working on projects that included the Hubble Space Telescope.

The trustees interviewed several outstanding candidates who would have been excellent presidents of this university. As you have heard, Dr. Córdova stood out as the right person at the right time for Purdue. Her vision for Purdue and higher education matches the vision of this board. President Jischke often describes outstanding candidates for high level jobs by saying "their resume glows in the dark." The breadth of her expertise, as you might expect from an astrophysicist, enables me to make a powerful statement - Dr. France Córdova's resume is truly out of this world!

Her background in science and with NASA, as well as her experience growing the learning, discovery and engagement missions at a land-grant university, will enable her to move quickly into this new role as president of Purdue.

A graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English, she was at least partially inspired into a career in science by the excitement in 1969 of Purdue alumnus Neil Armstrong, his landing of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module on the moon and the crew's safe return to earth.

After earning her doctorate at Cal Tech in physics in 1979, Dr. Córdova spent the next decade at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a member of the Space Astronomy and Astrophysics Group.

She then joined Penn State University to head the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

In 1993, she began work at NASA, serving as the primary scientific adviser to the NASA administrator and the principal interface between NASA headquarters and the broader scientific community.

She is the winner of NASA's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal. She is the award-winning author of a short work of fiction, "The Women of Santo Domingo," based on her anthropologic field work in a Zapotec Indian pueblo in Oaxaca, Mexico. She also wrote a Zapotec Indian cookbook.

Dr. Cordova has been named one of the "100 Most Influential Hispanics" by Hispanic Business Magazine, which also recognized her with the Hispanic Achievement Award in Science and Technology.

She is married to Chris Foster, and they have two children in college.

Dr. Córdova was born in France, where her father worked for CARE, a U.S. relief organization. Her father was Hispanic, her mother, of Irish descent. She is the eldest of 12 children and helped take care of her younger siblings at an earlier age.

Although she was not encouraged into the field of science as a girl, she loved it nonetheless. She was intrigued by Albert Einstein. Among her favorite quotes from the great scientist: "Gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love."

At the University of California, Riverside, she has promoted diversity, developing a welcoming and inclusive climate for the campus community. It is a community, in her own words, that "is grounded in respect for others, nurtured by dialog between those with differing perspectives and promotes civil interaction among community members."

At Riverside, Dr. Córdova appointed a child-care taskforce to examine the need for the campus to institute programs and policies that produce a family-friendly environment, particularly in regard to child-care services. This study led to approval for an additional day-care facility on the campus.

Her efforts have led to the approval of a new University of California medical school at Riverside, the first new medical school west of the Mississippi in 45 years. Its mission is to serve the medically underserved of rapidly growing, inland southern California. This demonstrates her ability to handle sensitive political issues and work projects through the legislature.

She is a great sports advocate who, as her athletic director says, "is the school's No. 1 fan," frequently in attendance at all sports events from basketball to cross country.

She has developed a beautiful satellite graduate center that offers professional degrees in business and creative writing in Palm Desert, Calif. And she has helped to enhance the cultural environment of downtown Riverside by building a row of distinctive new art museums.

Under her leadership, the University of California Riverside has set forth a vision. That vision is to be a top-ranked, global research university that creates a nurturing and learning environment for students, provides a welcoming and stimulating environment for friends and supporters and serves as both a source of pride for the region and a leader in its economic and cultural development.

In the final stages of our selection process, we contacted a national "Who's Who" of higher education leaders to discuss Dr. Córdova. Here are some of the comments we heard:

* "Hard working . . . energetic . . . makes things happen,"

* "maintains trust and loyalty,"

* "makes tough choices in difficult times,"

* "good relationship with legislators,"

* "she will 'wow' people,"

* "well-connected in Washington including the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense,"

* "respected scientist,"

* articulate and passionate,"

* "a national 'powerhouse.'"

There is more - much more that I could say and would like to say. But it is time for you to meet this incredible woman who will lead this university into a new and exciting era. It is my distinct honor to introduce the 11th president of Purdue University -

                * Dr. France Córdova!

 

Dr. Córdova, speaking for the nearly 70,000 Purdue students systemwide, I welcome you to our university and our state of Indiana.

You have an outstanding reputation for working with students and for promoting the importance of learning on your campus. Your own personal story is an inspiration to us all and we look forward to the day when your responsibilities officially begin.

Purdue students also have a great reputation for working in cooperation with the Purdue board of trustees and administration. I believe this partnership will only become stronger in the years ahead under your leadership.

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