WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. − Emotions ran high at the December Purdue Board of Trustees meeting, marking the last for Purdue Provost Jay Akridge and university President Mitch Daniels.
Both will be stepping down from their respective positions at the end of the calendar year.
Recognitions were presented to both Akridge and Daniels, as some members of the board become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment.
Since July 2017, Akridge has served as Purdue's provost. He will be stepping down at the end of this year to return to his role as a professor of agricultural economics.
Board member JoAnn Brouillette gave a moving farewell to Akridge when, overcome with emotion, fellow member Vanessa Castagna stepped in.
"She wants to thank you," Castagna said, arousing some laughter around the room. "...Just everything you've been doing for this academic of student affairs have taken it to a different level...I think that's really in her (Brouillette's) heart what she wants to say."
Board members Mark Gee and Shawn Taylor also shared their heartfelt stories about Akridge, with Gee stating that it was Akridge who first introduced the notion of Purdue and attending the university to him years ago.
Akridge himself took to the podium to provide his thoughts on his time spent at Purdue, so far.
"It's been a privilege getting to know Mark over this period of time and watch his growth...These are the things that all of us in academia live for, is just accomplishments with the students we've worked with."
As a surprise to Akridge, he was presented with the honor of being named Trustees Chair Professor of Teaching and Learning Excellence by President-elected Mung Chiang. Akridge has earned every award offered at Purdue that is available to him.
"This recognition of Teaching and Learning is really meaningful to me on a personal level," Akridge said. "...(when job searching,) I really wanted to get involved in (the learning aspect) and Purdue was really one of the few, really the only one of the ones I was looking at where engagement in the teaching (and) extension enterprise was not only something I could do, it was expected.
"...I've just got to say something of thanks to President Daniels. The depth of my gratitude to him for this opportunity and the respect I hold for him, I mean, you can't imagine," Akridge said through teary-eyes.
The last trustee meeting of the year was a double-whammy in goodbyes with Daniels stepping down from his position at the end of the year as well.
Daniels and multiple members from the board shared their thoughts and feelings on the upcoming departure. Michael Berghoff, chairman of the board of trustees, presented Daniels with a Resolution of Appreciation, and named him president emeritus as of Jan. 1, 2023.
The resolution stated a myriad of Daniels' accomplishments in Purdue over the past decade, including, verbatim:
Mitch made student affordability and student success top priorities, pledging to keep a Purdue education within reach for students and families – providing higher education at the highest proven value
…investments in student success and STEM research have undergone unprecedented growth
Purdue reimagined the School of Management into a new School of Business
Mitch conceived and championed for the growth and expansion of Discovery Park District at Purdue
amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitch’s advocacy, and persistence early on for committing to return to in-person classes in Fall 2020 – based on the very best available science and public health guidelines
Daniels took the podium at the end of the meeting to give his last, tearful speech at a Board of Trustees meeting.
"There's a reason that you're all called 'trustees,'" Daniels said. "We've all been entrusted with something much bigger than any individual's contribution or satisfaction...It is never about any individual...it's about how well we handle things we are entrusted with.
"...I've been saying to people that I think the final exam for a person with an assignment like mine is succession. You know, hopefully you did a good job, but did you leave in good shape and in good hands. I know that we have done that."
Approvals at the trustee meeting
A wide variety of ratifications, re-namings and more were approved during the Board of Trustees meeting.
One of the agenda items improved included a posthumous degree award to Vijay Viswan.
Viswan was a 25-year-old Purdue student who killed himself on Nov. 25 at Applied Ballistics, an indoor shooting range. The trustees stated that Viswan had completed well over 85% of degree progress that is required to earn a posthumous degree, as he was scheduled to complete his degree this semester, Fall of 2022.
Viswan was two courses away from earning his degree. The dean of the College of Science, Viswan's academic advisor and the Board of Trustees agreed that Viswan had well-earned his degree, and posthumously awarded him the Bachelor of Science from the College of Science in Computer Science.
A resolution renovates approximately 41,000-gross-square-feet on multiple floors of the Mechanical Engineering Building on the West Lafayette campus was approved as well.
According to the project description in the resolution, "Improved instructional spaces inclusive of labs and classrooms will be relocated to the ground and first floors with new collaboration space nearby. Several offices will be renovated, and a new stairway will connect the Mechanical Engineering Building to the Gatewood addition. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will be upgraded."
A final maximum price is to be set no later than June 2023 with a construction start date of July 2023 and completion date of February 2025.
The approval of new housing on the Purdue Fort Wayne (PFW) campus was also discussed by the trustees.
"The construction of a new residence hall would help address an existing wait list and projected increased demand for on-campus housing," the resolution says. "...this project would construct a new residence hall to address the increased demand for on-campus housing while enhancing student success and recruitment. The facility would include approximately 370 beds and would be located in the core of Purdue University Fort Wayne’s main campus."
Details on final cost estimates and start/finish dates for construction are TBD.
Other re-namings, ratifications and more
The following is a summary of additional orders of business approved at the Trustees meeting.
Approval of Don and Liz Thompson Minority Engineering Program
Approval of Klipsch Student Success Crossroads
Approval to Change Department of Human Development and Family Studies to Department of Human Development and Family Science
Approval to Rename Recitation Hall to Helen B. Schleman Hall
Approval to Name the Dr. Norman and Dr. Jane Li Chemical Engineering Separations Area
Approval to Name the Evan and Sue Ann Werling Comparative Oncology Research Center
Approval to Rename J. William Uhrig and Anastasia Vournas Head of Aeronautics and Astronautics to The Uhrig & Vournas Head of Aeronautics and Astronautics
For a full list of discussed items at the trustees meeting, visit the agenda for the Stated Meeting.
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Amid fanfare on campus, President Purdue bids farewell at trustee meeting