January 22, 2024

Meet the Boilermaker with the ‘world’s largest Purdue collection’

Chris Pate (BSEE '99) started at Purdue as a walk-on member of the golf team, but later moved to a position in the training room, where he acquired the initial items in his massive Boilermaker collection. PASTE THE INTRO HERE
Chris Pate, wearing multiple championship rings and watches, poses for a photo with his large Purdue memorabilia collection.
Chris Pate (BSEE '99) started at Purdue as a walk-on member of the golf team, but later moved to a position in the training room, where he acquired the initial items in his massive Boilermaker collection. (Purdue University photo/Greta Bell)

Purdue ECE alumnus Chris Pate’s fan cave is full of museum-quality pieces of Purdue history

Chris Pate (BSEE ’99) grew up during the pinnacle of America’s sports card craze, so he already had a collector’s disposition when he enrolled at Purdue in the mid-1990s.

Once he arrived in West Lafayette, however, the stars aligned in such a way that his interest in sports memorabilia — particularly Purdue memorabilia — evolved into a full-blown obsession.

“When I was a Purdue student, everyone was good,” Pate says. “Drew Brees was throwing footballs in Ross-Ade Stadium. The women’s basketball team won the 1999 national championship. The men’s basketball team went to the Sweet 16 a couple times, and the Elite Eight and won a Big Ten championship. It was definitely an exciting time to be on campus.”

That excitement inspired Pate to begin collecting, starting with a few jerseys acquired while working in the Purdue athletics equipment room as a student. His first big-ticket item, a Big Ten championship ring, came a few weeks after graduating from Purdue with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in December 1999. And that was only the beginning.

Over the next two-plus decades, Pate has built a staggering collection packed with so many Purdue mementos that his fan cave basement in southern Indiana has nearly run out of available space.

“I don’t want to chest-beat or anything,” he says, “but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the world’s largest Purdue collection.”

He’s not exaggerating.

As big as it is — with easily more than 1,000 Purdue items — the more impressive aspect of Pate’s collection is the museum-quality significance of some of the pieces. To name only a few:

  • Purdue’s game ball from the 1967 Rose Bowl win over Southern California, plus a team-signed football presented to Boilermaker astronaut Roger Chaffee that day in Pasadena.
  • Brees’ jersey from the 2001 Rose Bowl, the most recent time the Boilermakers appeared in the “Granddaddy of Them All,” plus jerseys from two other iconic athletes who were active during Pate’s days as a Purdue student: basketball stars Brian Cardinal and Stephanie White. “It’s pretty cool that, of our three major sports, I’ve got the jersey of my favorite player from each one,” Pate says.
  • The first tickets issued for the 1924 dedication game of Ross-Ade Stadium — untorn, no less — plus tickets to the 1967 dedication game for Mackey Arena.
  • A game program from every Purdue-Indiana gridiron battle for the Old Oaken Bucket, and tickets from every Bucket game except 1925 and 1926. “Anybody that’s got those, we need to talk,” Pate says, offering his email address (chris@boilerup.com) to any potential sellers.
  • A ticket to the Purdue-Indiana basketball game from 1932, the year Purdue won its only national championship to date in men’s basketball. The back of the ticket is adorned with a unique autograph from “Johnny” Wooden, an All-American guard on the 1932 team who would go on to become one of the most successful head coaches in college basketball history.
  • The 1994 Chicago Tribune Silver Basketball award presented to Purdue All-American Glenn Robinson as the Big Ten’s most valuable player, along with other awards and game-worn jerseys from the Big Dog himself.

We could go on, but you get the idea. This is no garden-variety assortment of Purdue stuff. Pate owns so many jaw-dropping pieces of Purdue memorabilia that he’s running low on bucket-list acquisitions that he still hopes to find.

“Honestly, it’s hard to find things I don’t have, so I get excited when I come across even a smaller thing that’s rare or unique that I don’t have or often see,” Pate says.

Source: Meet the Boilermaker with the ‘world’s largest Purdue collection’