The Purdue University Board of Trustees named a 64-year-old woman to become IPFW’s ninth chancellor after requiring the campus’ current leader to retire after turning 65.
Vicky L. Carwein, who currently is chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities, will replace outgoing Chancellor Michael Wartell. Purdue officials announced the news in front of hundreds of students, staff and others Tuesday in the Walb Student Union.
Thomas Spurgeon, vice chairman of Purdue’s board of trustees, said Carwein was the best person in the country to lead Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, lauding her ability to create great relationships with faculty, businesses and community leaders.
“ ‘Excellence’ is the best way to describe her accomplishments,” Spurgeon said. “Her ability to create partnerships will be a great strength.”
Under Purdue’s current guidelines, Wartell, who turned 65 this year, is required to retire at the end of the month. Wartell has led the joint regional campus for 19 years.
Several groups have taken issue with Purdue’s policy and had lobbied for Wartell to stay on at least past IPFW’s 50th anniversary celebration during the 2014-15 school year.
Carwein has been chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland, Wash., since September 2006.
Although she is 64, she could serve as IPFW chancellor for about seven years, officials said, because she is just starting at IPFW and doesn’t qualify for the minimum retirement benefit specified by federal law.
‘Like coming home’
Carwein grew up in Indiana’s Shelby County and said taking the helm of IPFW is in a sense returning to her roots.
“It feels right for me,” she said. “It feels like coming home.”
Although Washington State University Tri-Cities has 1,520 students – far fewer than IPFW’s more than 14,000 – Carwein pointed out that she has led several larger universities.
From 2004 through 2006, she was president of Westfield State College, a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate college in Westfield, Mass., with about 6,000 students, from 2004 through 2006. From 1995 through 2004, she was chancellor of the University of Washington Tacoma, a school of about 3,600 students.
Carwein began her career at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a research university of more than 28,000 students, where she was a faculty member for 23 years and dean of the College of Health Sciences for six years.
She obtained her baccalaureate and doctorate degrees from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and earned a master’s degree in nursing from the University of California, San Francisco.
IPFW is a regional campus of both Indiana University and Purdue University, but it is managed by Purdue University under the terms of a management agreement that is renewed every five years.
In November, Purdue University appointed a search committee tasked with finding a replacement for Wartell. The committee included several IPFW professors, the chancellor of Purdue University-Calumet and the chairman of the Indiana University Board of Trustees.
The committee considered many candidates, Spurgeon said, and chose two finalists. Five trustees then interviewed those candidates and made their recommendation to the board. Spurgeon said the board would vote on ratifying Carwein’s appointment during a public meeting July 22.
Purdue University President France Córdova had no input into the search, according to Spurgeon.
While Purdue’s trustees were searching for IPFW’s new chancellor, they were also conducting a search to replace Córdova, who leaves office in July.
The Purdue board has come under scrutiny for the way it handled its search process for both Córdova’s and Wartell’s replacements.
All meetings to discuss candidates for both searches were closed to the public, and the exact location, such as room number, of at least six meetings was not disclosed, according to Lafayette’s Journal & Courier.
State law allows public bodies to hold private meetings when the topic is related to job candidates and other personnel matters. But it also states that they must disclose the date, time and place of any meeting, whether open or closed, at least 48 hours in advance, excluding weekends and legal holidays
The Journal & Courier asked the Indiana Public Access Office whether the board had violated the policy by not mentioning the exact location of one of its meetings at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, in which it discussed Wartell’s replacement.
But the public access counselor found that mentioning the name of the airport was enough to satisfy the law.
Age limit varies
Purdue’s retirement policy requires university executives and staff in high policy-making positions to retire by the end of the fiscal year in which they turn 65 if they have been employed in their current positions for two years immediately before retirement and qualify for the minimum retirement benefit specified by federal law.
To qualify for that benefit, Spurgeon said, Carwein would need to be able to receive $44,000 in an annuity each year from her Purdue retirement account. He said Carwein won’t reach that level for seven or eight years.
Carwein will start her duties Sept. 1. Walt Branson, vice chancellor for financial affairs, will be interim chancellor starting July 1 – the day after Wartell retires.
Wartell, who originally was a professor of chemistry, joined IPFW in 1993 as vice chancellor for academic affairs and became its eighth chancellor in 1994.
Spurgeon said the trustees were thrilled with Wartell’s performance over the last two decades and said the decision to hire a new replacement was in no way a rebuke of anything he had done at IPFW.
He said there comes a time when any place needs new ideas and new approaches. If everyone was able to stay in the job as long as he or she wanted to, he said, over time the position can become less appealing to future candidates.
A new Mastodon
After Spurgeon’s opening remarks Tuesday, Carwein expressed her excitement about the opportunity. She also introduced the audience to her family members.
Carwein’s husband, Bill Andrews, works for Battelle Memorial Institute, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. They have two daughters and three grandchildren who live in North Carolina.
“This is the capstone of my career, and I am just so thrilled and honored,” Carwein said.
In a prepared statement issued before the event, Carwein described herself as a lover of music and traveling.
“I’m a frustrated musician and debated between majoring in nursing or musical performance,” she said in a statement. “My practical side won and I pursued nursing, which has been extremely satisfying to me. And the music never left me, as I still enjoy playing at home.”
At the end of Tuesday’s event, Branson said it was time to make Carwein a Mastodon. He handed her a bag with an IPFW sweatshirt and baseball cap, which she promptly put on her head.
- To read the text of Tuesday's announcement verbatim, click here.