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Donations Neared $300 Million In France Córdova's Final Year As Purdue President

Purdue University president France Córdova holds a press conference in January.

“You always want to lead with vision, and what you have to do is adjust your financial plan to achieve that vision.”
—France A. Córdova, former Purdue president

And the wait begins.

On Sunday, France A. Córdova stepped down as president of Purdue University, though it will be another six months before Mitch Daniels finishes his term as governor and takes office. Provost Tim Sands will lead the university in the interim.

Córdova announced last year that she would leave the university at the end of her five-year contract. In the final of her presidency, donations totaled $298.8 million.

It was the second-best fundraising year in the school’s history.

“I think that Purdue people have confidence in the institution, and this is about institution building,” Córdova told the Lafayette Journal and Courier. “This is a whole lot of people giving at all different levels.”

The largest gifts included $10 million to construct the Center for Student Excellence and Leadership, 416 endowment agreements worth more than $10 million and $61.2 million in electronic design software used in the school’s engineering courses. Also during Córdova’s tenure, a Chinese aluminum company announced its intention to build a facility in Lafayette because of its proximity to Purdue.

Keith Krach, chairman of the Board of Trustees, told Network Indiana that Córdova had raised the university’s profile overseas.

In total, Purdue received $1.1 billion in donations while she was president. Córdova led the university through the recession and leaves behind a 10-year financial plan, though she told WBAA’s Mike Liozzo the two weren’t necessarily related.

“Opposed to the effort we did during the financial downturn where it was very unpleasant to cost cut and cost contain because that’s significant pain realized more or less right away, this was a creative effort to think of how we could increase our financial capacity,” she said.

Now it will be up to Daniels’ to decide if the university stays the course.

In a letter to the Purdue community, Córdova writes that Daniels has supported the move to trimesters and will bring a “fresh perspective” to the school:

Governor Daniels is highly respected in Indiana and the nation for his efforts during the recent recession to keep the State budget balanced. He simultaneously maintained a healthy budget surplus. He introduced efficiencies in governance and attracted business to the State. The Governor sees universities as important engines of innovation and economic growth.

One of his top goals for education is to increase the number of college graduates. He has been supportive of Purdue’s planning for year-around schooling as a way to accelerate time to degree.

Reaction to news that Daniels will lead the university next has been a mixed bag. Even after a former dean announced she would pull a $1 million gift in light of the trustees’ selection, Krach maintained response had been overwhelmingly positive.

Morris Levy, past president of the faculty senate, told StateImpact in June it was too soon to tell how faculty would react to having a non-academic at the helm, but they would “vote with their feet” if they disagreed with the direction the governor took the university.

Córdova, meanwhile, will continue her career at the Smithsonian. An astrophysicist by training, she was the first female chief scientist at NASA and the first female leader of Purdue.

In an email to Purdue’s student newspaper, The Exponent, Interim President Sands wrote it had been interesting to watch Córdova interact with male colleagues and stakeholders.

“Purdue has long been a male-dominated university, both in numbers and in positions of power and control,” Sands said. “Having a female president provided some balance. That said, her varied life experience has been arguably even more important to her effectiveness as a role model.”

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