Section Flexible Gifts
Steve Ferdon (BSMSE ’82) greets the workday morning with Purdue no matter where he is.
“I’ve placed Purdue coffee mugs in every lab I’ve used,” says Ferdon, who directs Global Engineering Technology in the Fuel Systems Business Unit at Cummins Inc. and works in laboratories throughout the world. “It was because of my 7:30 a.m. classes as a student at Purdue that I learned to drink coffee, and now, through these mugs, the sun never sets on Purdue’s colors at Cummins.”
Ferdon serves on the Purdue School of Materials Engineering advisory committee and is an advisor for senior design projects. He and his wife, Mary, also give back by making unrestricted financial gifts to the University.
An unrestricted gift has no limitations on how it should be used.
Ferdon says they choose to make unrestricted gifts because they allow administrators great flexibility in how to spend the money, and they enable departments to adapt quickly to changing needs.
“I know firsthand the MSE administrators’ dedication to student education and research that will benefit and change society,” Ferdon says. “Day to day, they know where they need to spend money to achieve the best results, and we trust their judgment.”
Mary Ferdon has seen Purdue from many perspectives — as a child growing up on a Purdue agricultural farm, as a student studying political science, as a mother with two sons who graduated from the University, and as a donor and Boilermaker fan who attends most football games.
“I’ve seen decades of change at Purdue and I think it is important to recognize that it is not just the campus that evolves, but also the needs of the University,” says Mary, who is executive director of administration and community development for the City of Columbus, Indiana. “The technology changes, the focus of research changes, what employers want from graduates and the way the University educates students changes. The value of an unrestricted gift is that Purdue can put it where it needs to go and where the future is headed.”
Monthly student trips to the local meeting of the American Society for Metals and class trips to Haynes Satellite (now Haynes International) in Kokomo, Indiana, made an impression on Bob English (BSMSE ’70, MSMSE ’76, MSIE ’79), professor emeritus of engineering technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“We met and learned from professionals in the area, and the trips brought realism to what we were learning in the classroom,” he says.
Today, English and his wife, Donna (MS ’75, PhD ’78 Psychological Sciences), give unrestricted gifts to the University knowing that student travel is among the many things such funding can cover.
“Now students attend national conferences and meetings, which is even better,” he says. “They learn from top experts in the field and gain experience presenting papers themselves. Networking events may lead to future collaborations or positions. These experiences are invaluable.”
After working in industry, English taught at Purdue, and he taught and served as chair of engineering technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He realized there are a number of activities a department head may want to fund but is unable to with monies that are already budgeted for specific purposes.
“A department head can use unrestricted funding for almost anything,” he says. “Perhaps graduate students are working on research in an area not yet supported by federal money, but they still need supplies. Unrestricted funding can take care of them. Or, if a student runs into an unexpected time of need, the funds could be used to help him or her.”
Bob English says unrestricted funds can be used to keep a unit running day to day by covering laboratory supplies, equipment repair and maintenance, and emergencies that pop up.
“I visit Purdue regularly and sometimes get to tour labs and see what my former professors are up to,” he says. “A lot of what you see in a laboratory was purchased through donations from individuals or corporations. There is never enough money for supplies and equipment is extremely expensive.”
For Peter (BSEE ’67) and Ann Lambertus, of Lexington, Massachusetts, unrestricted support means they are able to provide integral funding to important projects. The couple’s gift of $1 million to the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering will add funding to the ongoing renovation of the Materials and Electrical Engineering building, the future hub of the department. “We are pleased to play a substantial part in ECE’s long-term commitment to students, faculty and research,” says Peter Lambertus.
Steve Ferdon says the behind-the-scenes needs of the faculty, staff and students can sometimes go unseen by donors looking to support their school or university.
“It can be frustrating to see new beautiful buildings go up, but inside of them are outdated microscopes and lab equipment,” he says. “Unrestricted funding fills these buildings and supports the people within it.”
Investments in Infrastructure
Expansions and improvements to teaching and learning spaces, laboratories, offices
Elevating Student Experience
Scholarships, student opportunities, diversity programs, student clubs
Dedicated to the Cause
Fundraising, event hosting, activity planning, advisory boards, networking with alumni
Laboratory infrastructure and equipment, project startup funds, graduate student support
Administrative funds, student travel and networking, unexpected opportunities
Rewarding, retaining, recruiting faculty and promoting diversity in engineering