INDIANAPOLIS | He'll be in West Lafayette, not the West Wing, but next year Gov. Mitch Daniels will be the president.
The Purdue University Board of Trustees on Thursday unanimously elected the 63-year-old Republican as the 12th president of the six-campus university that educates some 75,000 students statewide, including nearly 10,000 at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond and more than 5,000 at Purdue University North Central in Westville.
Wearing a striped tie with Purdue's colors of black and old gold, Daniels said following the vote that he "can conceive of no other assignment in which a person has the chance to contribute more to building the kind of Indiana of which we dream."
"No institution of any kind means more to Indiana today or tomorrow than Purdue University," Daniels said. "It educates at the highest level the engineers, scientists, agricultural experts, information technologists on whom our state and national success disproportionately depend."
Daniels is the first sitting governor appointed president of an Indiana university, though he will not take the reins at Purdue until his second term as governor ends in January. Provost Timothy Sands will serve as interim president following the July 15 retirement of President France Cordova.
In the meantime, Daniels said he will be "occupied with lots of listening and very little talking" about the future of Purdue, especially since his background is in government and business, not academia.
To accommodate that, Daniels said, "Effective immediately, I will recuse myself from any partisan political activities or commentary."
Keith Krach, chairman of Purdue's board of trustees, said it was Daniels' leadership experience, ability to attract stellar talent and passion for higher education that led trustees to take the unusual step of selecting an academic outsider to lead a major American university.
"His presidency will set us apart as an institution of higher learning that is open to big ideas and bold thinking," Krach said.
Despite the governor having appointed a majority of the Purdue trustees, Krach said Daniels went through the same evaluation process as every candidate, including intensive questioning by the board three times over the past year.
"As a matter of fact, I think he was scrubbed a lot harder," Krach said. "There was not one unasked question and there probably wasn't an unexpressed thought that didn't get discussed."
Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon was in attendance at Purdue's main West Lafayette campus when Daniels was elected president. He expects Daniels will bring "national visibility and thoughtfully strategic intellectualism" to the job.
"I was impressed with comments he made about economic development and the importance of innovation through research," Keon said. "Through our campus Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation and our desire to develop a commercialization center that advances new industries in Northwest Indiana, I am excited that Purdue Calumet and our new Purdue president seem to share similar perspectives."