FORT WAYNE – The IPFW campus looked a bit like the scene of a political rally.
Young people milled around a white tent Wednesday, many sporting blue buttons and shirts covered with the slogan I like Mike.
The Mike, of course, was IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell, who retires this summer after 19 years of service. Under Purdue’s guidelines, Wartell, who turned 65 this year, must retire in June.
Students spent about an hour on Wednesday honoring his accomplishments, swapping stories about his personality and thanking him for his devotion to the school.
This guy is awesome. He’s done so much with this place, said student government president Terel Lynn. When you have someone who has been the backbone of the university and has put his heart and soul into the college for 19 years, it would be an insult not to honor that.
The Indiana Purdue Student Government Association kicked off I like Mike week at Saturday’s men’s volleyball game, where students held up large cardboard cutouts of the chancellor’s face. Throughout the week, the group handed out free I like Mike buttons and T-shirts.
During Wednesday’s recognition ceremony, IPFW Alumni President Steve Franks credited Wartell with expanding both the university’s reputation and its physical presence.
Mike helped us grow up, he said. We were kind of an adolescent when we started – or even a kid. Now look around. We’ve grown up. Mike modernized us.
Several students lauded Wartell’s visibility and approachability on campus. He wasn’t afraid to volunteer with students or to give a student a ride home, they said. And a little-known fact, they said, is that he also has a national ranking in the computer game Angry Birds.
He’s shown that he really loves the students, said junior Laddan Abbasi. We have so much fun with him, and we wanted to thank him for being so relatable.
Also during the ceremony, the student senate presented Wartell with a plaque containing a student government resolution Honoring and Celebrating his work.
I’ve been honored to be a part of IPFW for 19 years, Wartell said, adding that it was the family feeling on campus that meant more to him than the physical improvements he’d overseen throughout the years.
I hope it’s clear that I love IPFW, I love what I do.