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COST OF CHANGE: Alumni voice feelings about IPFW split into separate Purdue, IU programs

The Purdue Fort Wayne campus hopes to engage and involve IPFW alumni as the university goes forward, an official said. Some IPFW signs and items will go to the Alumni Center on California Road. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Some IPFW objects, such as this obelisk between Kettler Hall and the Engineering, Technology and Computer Science building, will remain after IPFW becomes Purdue Fort Wayne on July 1. Purdue Fort Wayne wants to build on its IPFW heritage, not erase it, a university official said. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second day of a three-day series of stories about the transition of IPFW to separate Purdue University and Indiana University programs, effective Sunday. Tomorrow, we look at IU Fort Wayne.

Mary Jo Hardiman has only great memories of her four years of college.

“My time at IPFW really was phenomenal,” said Hardiman, who graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in human services.

She’s cautiously optimistic about the university’s future as IPFW splits Sunday into the separate schools of Purdue University Fort Wayne and Indiana University Fort Wayne. That’s a feeling echoed by other alumni.

The realignment into two separate universities was advocated by the Indiana General Assembly and some business leaders. The board of trustees of both Purdue and IU, which had been partners in IPFW, also had to approve the separation.

Most of the academic programs and the campus, as well as all of the athletic teams, will be part of Purdue Fort Wayne.

RELATED STORY: COST OF CHANGE: Transforming IPFW campus to Purdue, IU programs in Fort Wayne involves a major investment

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READ THE ENTIRE ‘COST OF CHANGE’ NEWS-SENTINEL.COM INVESTIGATIVE SERIES

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REACHING OUT

Purdue Fort Wayne also will coordinate with the alumni association, which has been renamed the Mastodon Alumni Association.

The university plans to reach out to IPFW alumni as it moves forward and to keep them engaged, said Jerry Lewis, Purdue Fort Wayne’s interim vice chancellor for communications and chief marketing officer.

Purdue Fort Wayne also involved alumni in its planning for rebranding of the university, Lewis said.

He wasn’t sure if the separation of IPFW into Purdue and IU programs has impacted alumni giving, but overall giving to IPFW showed an increase for the fiscal year ending June 30, he said.

SENSE OF MOMENTUM

When Hardiman first heard the news about IPFW being separated into Purdue and IU programs, “you get a little nostalgic,” she said.

The 2017 recipient of the IPFW Alumni Association’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award, she wondered if the new entities could maintain the same energy and momentum she felt while there as a student.

Now the chief operating officer of the YWCA of Northeast Indiana, she felt much better after hearing Purdue Fort Wayne Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer speak a few months ago, adding that she could sense an energy and momentum.

The real proof probably will come in three to five years when people will see if Purdue Fort Wayne maintained that momentum, she said.

MAINTAINING TRUST

When he heard the news about the realignment of IPFW into Purdue and IU programs, 1972 IPFW graduate Jim Roehm said he felt “resigned” to the decision.

“Higher education is undergoing great changes,” said Roehm, a former Fort Wayne resident who earned an associate’s degree in computer technology at IPFW and then a Purdue bachelor’s degree from IPFW in industrial supervision.

“I trust the process,” said Roehm, who now lives in North Kingston, R.I., and who spoke with News-Sentinel.com by phone. “This is not something done overnight.”

Roehm, who currently is a senior consultant with The Giving Collaborative philanthropic consulting firm, said he really appreciates the opportunity he had at IPFW. A young man from a blue-collar family was able to earn a college degree from doctorate-level faculty, he said.

CREATING A GOOD EXPERIENCE

Hardiman is happy the university decided to keep its mastodon mascot and logo, and that the use of Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons for its teams will keep the city in the teams’ name.

Roehm agrees, saying IPFW and now Purdue Fort Wayne have the second coolest college mascot behind the banana slug mascot of the University of California-Santa Cruz.

Hardiman appreciates the many surveys and emails she received from the university asking input from alumni and the community about the change from IPFW to separate Purdue and IU programs.

“It’s not always about the name,” she said. “It’s about the experience.”

If Purdue Fort Wayne can continue to provide a rich experience to students and alumni, students and grads will stay involved and give to the university, she said.

Roehm said the change to Purdue Fort Wayne won’t affect his good memories and strong loyalty toward the campus. He’s going to continue donating to the university’s annual fund, and he plans to remember it in his will.

“It’s my college,” he said. “It’s my experience. It’s my hometown.”

BUILDING A CONNECTION

Stephanny Smith is keeping an open mind about the change of IPFW to Purdue Fort Wayne and IU Fort Wayne.

“As an alumnus, I am happy to sit back and see how things pan out,” said Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies in 2000 and a master’s degree in public affairs in 2005.

As a working adult, Smith said she found it very helpful to be able to work full time and to still attend school at IPFW.

Looking ahead, “I do think it is important for the community to have a healthy, vibrant campus,” said Smith, who didn’t want her employer named in this story.

That includes offering the opportunities IPFW has provided, such as its athletics, theater productions, guest lecturers and community events, including serving as a site of some performances by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, she said.

Those types of activities foster a connection with alumni and with people in the community, said Smith, who regularly attends the university’s athletic events and guest speaker lectures.

“I feel a connection to the campus that goes beyond philanthropic giving,” she said.

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