President Daniels Thanksgiving appreciation message to faculty and staff

Dear Purdue faculty, staff and graduate student employees, 

Yesterday we marked, for at least the 300th time, the last day of a semester’s classes at Purdue. It’s always an occasion for some fulfillment and satisfaction, at courses well taught, research advanced, a large campus operated safely and competently. But, unless it was our very first winter term, we’ve never celebrated the simple fact that we are here at all. This year, as in almost every other way, is different. We are here, and that is worthy of genuine celebration.

As the COVID-19 virus spread across the country last spring, Purdue and all our higher education counterparts faced the enormously complex and difficult decision whether to resume operations in the fall, and if so on what basis. After, and only after, lengthy and intense examination of the scientific and medical evidence, led by some of our top scholars, Purdue resolved to welcome our students back in August, as they had told us in overwhelming numbers they hoped we would do. Then we went to work, from the very beginning of the summer, to take every step we could devise to make that decision safe for students and staff.

Other schools, in good conscience I know, decided differently. Many never tried to open. Others, including several of our direct peers and competitors, tried and failed. Still others reopened, but were residential in name only, offering few or no in-person classes, and curtailing research severely.

Almost everywhere there was hardship. At schools that opened, but especially at those that did not, firing of faculty and staff, layoffs, and furloughs, were the rule and not the exception. Pay cuts were imposed almost universally. Meanwhile, surrounding communities were devastated by these reductions and the absence of student populations.

As we reconvened in August, I said to our Boilermaker community: “If we make it to Thanksgiving, it will be a great collective achievement. It will be the greatest capstone team project in Purdue history. It’s your actions that will determine more than any other factor whether that success is possible. Let’s see if we can do it.” I admit I was far from certain that even a collection of can-do problem-solvers like ours could pull off that achievement.

Well, we’re here, and only because of the collective effort we could only imagine in August. Faculty did heroic work reconfiguring instruction and research; staff undertook entirely new ways of supporting our faculty, delivering services, and securing campus spaces.

And then there were our students. First, they demonstrated enough confidence in the people above to sign up and show up, not only at adequate levels but in record numbers. The strong revenues that produced, coupled with great staff cooperation in controlling expenses everywhere possible, enabled us to maintain a very stable fiscal position, even while committing tens of millions of dollars to new Protect Purdue expenditures.

Second, today’s Boilermakers emphatically refuted the cynical predictions that their behavior would overwhelm any protective actions the university attempted. While putting up with the academic and social limitations we were forced to impose, our students not only complied, they led each other and all of us in living up to the conduct defined in the Protect Purdue Pledge. More than any other step we took, their actions enabled the campus to manage through to yesterday’s adjournment. 

I cannot fully express our appreciation for the patience, forbearance, extra effort and sometimes true sacrifices that have gone into this accomplishment. But as a gesture of Purdue’s deep gratitude, and admiration, for your part in making it possible, please accept the $750 Appreciation Award that will appear in the December paychecks. It’s a small, one-time token, but a sincere one. It’s our intention, barring major setbacks, to resume merit raises starting next July at a level consistent with recent years.

Over time, in a variety of pursuits, I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many large-scale, highly significant endeavors. None of them left me more grateful, or more proud in the association with those who made a given success possible, than I feel today toward the people of Purdue.

Now we have to do it all over again, in what might even be a tougher Spring semester. But that’s for later. For now, have a very happy, and very careful, Thanksgiving.


Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.