A degree from Purdue University and an extensive career that followed has led Ronald Elsenbaumer to IPFW as its next chancellor.
When Indiana and Purdue universities end their more than 50-year IPFW alliance next year, Elsenbaumer will have the chance to lead the new Purdue University Fort Wayne as the “skilled manager of complexity” his job application envisions for the school. He begins Nov. 1.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced Thursday Elsenbaumer, special adviser to the president at the University of Texas at Arlington, will replace Vicky Carwein, who will retire after serving as IPFW chancellor since 2012.
“It's exciting to return to Purdue at what is a critical juncture at the Fort Wayne campus,” Elsenbaumer, 66, said in a news release. “With the challenge comes a tremendous opportunity, and I look forward to working closely with the campus and northeast Indiana communities to ensure we are educationally relevant to our students and economically impactful to the region.”
In a phone interview, Elsenbaumer said he thinks the combination of his private-sector experience and extensive academic experience are the best qualities be brings to the job.
“As I've said to many people, the leadership skills, the collaborative skills, the inclusiveness, those traits that I've learned in the private sector have served me incredibly well in the academic world,” he said.
Arlington is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, with more than 7 million people. The three-county Fort Wayne metro has a population of about 432,000. The University of Texas at Arlington has an enrollment of about 40,000 students. IPFW reported an enrollment of 10,414 this year, down about 13 percent from last fall.
Elsenbaumer said enrollments are declining in many locations in the country because of a declining high school graduate population. University administrators have to reach out further to attract, not only first-time students, but those needing to finish a degree or wanting an advanced degree.
“So, I think it's really about serving the community, the region and really across the state of Indiana,” he said.
Elsenbaumer, a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania, earned his bachelor's degree with honors in chemistry from Purdue's West Lafayette campus in 1973 and his doctorate in chemistry from Stanford University in 1978. He has been at Texas-Arlington since 1991 and has served in his current role as senior adviser for entrepreneurship and economic development since 2016.
He also has served UTA as provost and vice president for academic affairs, vice president for research and federal relations, director of the nano-fabrication research and teaching facility, chair of both the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Materials Science and Engineering Program, a professor of chemistry and polymer chemistry, and as a professor of materials science and engineering.
“It's a pleasure to welcome Ron back to Purdue,” Daniels said in the release. “He brings an exceptional blend of academic and industry experience, and he'll need it to lead the campus in new directions at a pivotal moment in its history. Our positive reaction to his impressive credentials was reinforced by the overwhelmingly favorable feedback we received from faculty, staff and students who met him during his trip to campus.”
From 1977 to 1991, Elsenbaumer worked for AlliedSignal, which took the name Honeywell after it bought that company in 1999, according to the news release.
He started with AlliedSignal as a laboratory scientist and was promoted to senior research associate and conductive polymer project leader. In that role, he managed project development through market release and worked with partner companies in Europe and Japan, the release states.
Elsenbaumer was one of four finalists for the job. The others were Carl N. Drummond, an IPFW vice chancellor; Edwin Daniel Hirleman Jr., Purdue's chief corporate and global partnerships officer; and Martin Abraham, provost and chief academic officer at Youngstown (Ohio) State University.
All were strong candidates, said Jeffrey Malanson, associate professor of history and IPFW Faculty Senate presiding officer. Malanson was a member of the chancellor search committee.
“I am very happy with the selection of Dr. Elsenbaumer to be our next chancellor,” Malanson said in an email response. “I was very impressed with Dr. Elsenbaumer at every stage of the search process, and the campus community had extremely positive things to say about his time on campus and his vision for Purdue Fort Wayne's future. He will be a strong advocate for the university and I am excited for him to get to work.”
Drummond, the only inside candidate, said he was satisfied with the selection.
“I am pleased and excited that President Daniels has identified such a skilled and experienced leader to be the next Chancellor of the campus,” he said in an email. “I look forward to his arrival and a smooth and rapid transition.”
Elsenbaumer will be IPFW chancellor for less than a year when Purdue and Indiana universities end their IPFW governance agreement June 30, 2018. Purdue University Fort Wayne begins the next day, with Elsenbaumer at the helm. IU will have a lower profile and focus on health sciences. Purdue will handle all other academic programs.
The realignment came out of a legislative study that recommended the split. Faculty and students took issue with aspects of the study. The IPFW Faculty Senate voted in January 2016 for a nonbinding resolution opposing the split.
But it became official last December when IU and Purdue trustee boards approved the realignment.
In his letter to the search committee, Elsenbaumer credits his degree and experiences at Purdue for opening “many doors for me, and I have taken what I have learned and translated it into a rewarding career that spans both academia and the private sector.”
As a chancellor candidate, Elsenbaumer writes about building “strong and collaborative” teams, closing the opportunity gap, increasing diversity, working with government representatives on legislative issues, improving recruiting, retention and graduation rates and finding “multiple sources of income to supplement state support and maintain affordable tuition rates.”
His biggest challenge, Elsenbaumer said by phone, is navigating the transition.
“And I really think a key attribute to the success of this transition, at least for me, is to be highly visible and accessible to students, to faculty, staff, alumni and the community,” he said.
“For me this is going to be especially important for the name change that is about to occur and for rebranding the institution. It's important to keep everybody aware of what's happening every step of the way and to keep them engaged and involved with it.”