“A quiet, formal affair, punctuated by brief speeches, good humor, benediction, organ music and feelings of both accomplishment and relief” marked the dedication of Indiana-Purdue Regional Campus on a chilly November Sunday in 1964.
In his book on “The Creation Years” of IPFW, historian John Ankenbruck noted references on that day to the nearly half-century of “disjointed and sometimes colorful prior development of the universities' programs ... the occasional differences, and the apprehensions and the relentless hopes which resulted in a unique, unified seat of higher education.''
“It is doubtful that any other university needed quite the same combination of persuasion, drawing together of disparate interests, and happy accidents that characterized the start of this one,” Ankenbruck wrote in 1983.
No ceremony is set for this sweltering July Sunday, but if it were, similar observations could describe IPFW's return to two distinct university programs. As Purdue and Indiana universities officially sever their nearly 54-year collaboration, Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana residents hold “relentless hopes” for a higher education model that will serve students and the region for another half-century and beyond.
The smooth transition described by The Journal Gazette's Ron Shawgo in stories published today and on June 24 bodes well for fewer conflicts at the administrative end and greater support for the academic end.
IU Fort Wayne takes over all programs in health sciences, including the nursing program, while Purdue assumes full oversight of all other academic programs.
John Sampson, president and chief executive officer of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, believes the realignment will be good for all, with both flagship universities overseeing academic areas in which they excel.
“What I see is that both IU and Purdue are in their sweet spot, now unencumbered by a collaboration at the campus,” he said. “They were tied together in an administrative relationship that was difficult for both of them. We are looking forward to seeking a lot of investment by Purdue – it's right where it should be.
“Of course, this is the glorious view from me – the optimist,” Sampson said. “It's not going to be without challenges, but this positions us to look forward.”
Looking back, he noted the important role IPFW played in northeast Indiana.
“When you think that so many of the graduates have remained here, what that campus is is not just a regional outlet, but a cornerstone of the region for so many years,” Sampson said. “You can't look back over the last 50 years and say it wasn't a success.”
Collaboration will continue to be necessary, considering the two universities' joint presence on the Coliseum Boulevard campus, but it can also be advantageous, particularly with participation by other area colleges and universities. Sampson said the regional partnership convenes quarterly meetings with the leadership of not only IU and Purdue, but also Ivy Tech Community College and the independent universities in this area. Those meetings are producing encouraging initiatives to meet regional needs, he said.
In 1964, combining the strengths of Indiana's largest public institutions appeared to be the best way to meet northeast Indiana's demands for higher education. The model served us well for many years.
Here's hoping the new model continues to build on IPFW's contributions.