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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Troy Carr with Indiana Signworks changes out the old IPFW road signs with the new Purdue Fort Wayne colors near Hilliard Gates Sports Center.  

  • File A 2014 aerial photo of IPFW, which opened in 1964 with one building.

  • File Artist Cary Shafer looks at “DecoDon,” one of the 102 mastodon sculptures that were part of the IPFW public art project in 2005.

Sunday, June 24, 2018 1:00 am

Officials credit chancellor for seamless IPFW transition

RON SHAWGO | The Journal Gazette

IPFW timeline 

1958: The original tract for IPFW is purchased.

1964: Kettler Hall is completed. First combined Indiana University and Purdue University classes conducted on campus.

1968: First degrees conferred.

1974: Administrative unification of Indiana University and Purdue under one chancellor.

1976: Fine Arts School on West Berry Street merges with IPFW.

1981: Hilliard Gates Sports Center completed.

1985: Purdue designated as responsible for campus management.

1988: 152-acre William T. McKay property adjacent to the campus acquired for the Indiana-Purdue Foundation at Fort Wayne.

1989: Parkview Hospital Nursing Program merger with IPFW completed.

1991: IPFW establishes first baccalaureate program in women's studies in Indiana.

1993: Men's basketball team wins the Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and an NCAA Division II postseason berth.

1994: IPFW men's volleyball team hosts the NCAA Final Four.

1998: Science Building dedicated.

2001: The athletics program begins transition to Division I affiliation.

2002: The Fort Wayne Public Television Center opens on land leased from IPFW.

2003: Groundbreaking for student housing. The Willis Family Bridge connecting the campus to student housing is completed.

2004: The Waterfield Campus Student Housing complex opens for fall 2004. The IPFW Warsaw Center grand opening is held.

2005: The “Last Stampede” and Gala concludes the Mastodons on Parade program, the highlight event of IPFW's 40th Anniversary Celebration.

2006: IPFW athletics programs joins the Mid-Continent Conference. The conference later becomes The Summit League.

2007: The Discover IPFW capital campaign concludes with $43 million in support for IPFW, more than twice the original goal.

2008: The Holiday Inn at IPFW and the Coliseum opens.

2010: The first IPFW Riverfest is celebrated. The women's volleyball and tennis teams win Summit League championships, qualifying them for NCAA championship tournaments.

2011: The IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne has its first graduating class. The women's tennis team repeats as Summit League champions and participates in the NCAA Tournament.

2013: IPFW RiverFest is discontinued.

2014: IPFW celebrates its 50th anniversary

2015: IPFW is designated a metropolitan university; state legislature calls for a study of governance of the campus.

2016: State study calls for IPFW to split, with two schools on campus led by IU and Purdue. Trustees of both universities approve the split. IPFW beats IU in men's basketball and repeats the feat in 2017.

2018: The realignment becomes official July 1.

Sources: IPFW and Journal Gazette archives

Capping a more-than-2-year odyssey in a spectacle rarely seen in higher education, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne will come to an end this week after 54 years.

While no one will be surprised if some loose ends remain after Saturday, the last day for IPFW, officials say they are ready to move forward with two separate schools on campus this fall. For students, little will appear different aside from some updated signs and new websites, officials say.

“Quite honestly, when you think about this carefully, what has changed?” said Ron Elsenbaumer, chancellor since November. “Well, what was changed are basically pieces of paper and some business processes. Curriculum are the same. Faculty are the same.”

The realignment came out of a legislative study released in January 2016 that recommended Indiana and Purdue operate separate schools. The report said historical trends showed no substantial growth or decline in degree-seeking enrollment, the number of master's degrees granted each year, research funding and charitable giving, all areas that affect performance of IPFW's core mission.

The IPFW Faculty Senate voted that month for a nonbinding resolution opposing the realignment. Emotions ran high. An internal study of the school's future recommended closing or reorganizing some programs, citing a predicted budget shortfall. In late 2016, some programs were eliminated. Faculty and students staged protests. In November that year, the Faculty Senate passed a vote of no confidence in former Chancellor Vicky Carwein. 

But minds were set.

In December 2016, IU and Purdue trustees approved an agreement that establishes two institutions beginning July 1. IU will have a lower profile and focus on health sciences as Indiana University Fort Wayne. Purdue will handle all other academic programs and become Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“The level of complexity of this transition has required our constant attention since it was conceptualized,” said Carl Drummond, vice chancellor for academic affairs, who played a major role in the realignment.

But the transformation has been characterized by a high level of cooperation between the universities, both sides agree. While a massive job, Drummond describes the end result as “almost anticlimactic.”

After years of offering classes in separate Fort Wayne locations, IU and Purdue opened IPFW in 1964. Kettler Hall was the first building. The 662-acre campus has seen consistent growth since. Last year the school had 7,708 degree-seeking students and 2,249 not seeking a degree.

Neff Hall, the Helmke Library, Walb Student Union and the Liberal Arts building broke ground in the 1970s. IPFW merged with the Fine Arts School on West Berry Street in 1976. 

Three buildings, including the Gates Sports Center, were added in the 1980s. Six buildings, including two parking garages, were built in the 1990s.

In the 2000s, student housing, the Rhinehart Music Center, the Medical Education Center, the Busse Alumni Center and two bridges were built.

Of course, the school is not just buildings. 

The IPFW athletics program began transitioning to NCAA Division I affiliation in 2001. The school has been involved with Three Rivers Festival events and the city's Fourth of July fireworks display. The school's Omnibus Lecture Series featuring prominent speakers is a community draw.

The Fort Wayne region became engaged when the school celebrated its 40th anniversary with the public art project “Mastodons on Parade.” 

What started as a plan to place 40 individualized fiberglass replicas of the school's mascot around the community turned into 102 as local businesses and institutions came forward to sponsor them. Some of the mastodons can still be spotted in the community.

The community also became involved, sometimes vocally, as IPFW headed toward the eventual split. With that behind them, IU and Purdue are preparing for their next act.

IU has opened a center in Neff Hall for recruiting and registering students. Rooms in Neff are also being renovated for IU programs. Admissions are going well and the school is pleased with recruiting, said David Chappell, newly appointed director of the center.

“I think things are all falling into place,” said Ann Obergfell, IU Fort Wayne's associate vice chancellor of academic affairs and operations. “I'm sure there'll be a few things we'll have to deal with as we make it past July 1.”

The 2017-18 school year started the clock ticking for existing students to complete their IU or Purdue degrees by 2021 during a “teach-out” under the existing IPFW structure. After that, the two schools will be fully separate. Because IU Fort Wayne will focus solely on health sciences, most programs will transfer to Purdue.

Perhaps the most high-profile changes involve nursing and music. Purdue's nursing department at IPFW will go to IU, and IU's music department will go to Purdue. Those transitions have been finalized. Nursing is still working through some accreditation issues, but the Indiana State Board of Nursing gave the department a good review, Obergfell said.

The most challenging aspect of the transition, both sides agree, has been configuring separate IU and Purdue computer systems to handle registrations, grades, transfers and other student functions. IU students will still take general education courses through the Purdue side. Faculty will give grades, the grades will go to the registrar and the registrar has to deal with two universities. The grades get archived in Purdue Fort Wayne and are then transferred to IU records, Elsenbaumer said.

Purdue worked with software developers so the computer systems could communicate with each other.

Every legal document from IPFW's past is being changed and that is 99 percent complete, Elsenbaumer said. Some other items still need done but are not “mission critical,” such as six or seven endowments intended for medical education that will transition to IU from Purdue.

Faculty tenure has been transferred to the institution they work for. Because nursing is the only Purdue program IU is getting, far more former IU faculty will now be Purdue faculty.

A handful of new students attending an IU orientation last week didn't seem concerned about the transition.

As she sat waiting, Hailey Mendoza, 18, of Oklahoma, said she applied online through Purdue to enter the nursing program, not knowing it had switched to IU. Though accepted, she had to reapply through IU in December. She cited IU's online transitioning.

“It's a lot smoother now,” she said. “Their website's really good. And before they didn't have much on their website. I don't think they had a website earlier in the year.”

For students, the approach from both schools has been to make the transition seamless.

“I think the university did a really nice job of letting students know it's OK. Everything's going to be fine,” Obergfell said. “You're going to get your degree. You're going to be able to move forward.”

IU officials credit Elsenbaumer, chancellor less than eight months, as a collaborator and a major player in the transformation. 

“Right time, right place, the right leader for the Purdue Fort Wayne campus,” said Dr. Fen-Lei Chang, chairman of the IU Fort Wayne executive committee and director of the IU School of Medicine-Fort Wayne. “IU Fort Wayne cannot be successful without Purdue Fort Wayne, and Purdue Fort Wayne cannot be successful without IU Fort Wayne. Even though it's a realignment of two universities I see a stronger collaboration than the time of IPFW.”

Drummond, who applied for the chancellor position, agrees.

“I can't say enough what Chancellor Elsenbaumer has meant to this process,” he said. “His very positive outlook. His experience working in the UT (University of Texas) system has really been very helpful, and I think he has had a big influence on calming and a positive, realistic approach to this transition. Very focused on the future.”

Elsenbaumer said he found confusion in the community about the transition. But as time has passed, he is now more often referred to as the chancellor of Purdue Fort Wayne, which he will become July 1.

Preserving the IPFW legacy is important, he said. Officials are looking at how to do that. The Steel Dynamics Keith E. Busse Alumni Center might be a place to preserve some artifacts such as signs, logos and documents, Elsenbaumer said.

Obergfell, a Fort Wayne native who attended IPFW as an undergrad, believes IPFW's 59,000 alumni will be responsible for keeping the legacy alive. The alumni center sounds like a good fit, she said.

“We hope that happens, because those of us who went here, there's a piece of that that makes me a little sad,” she said. “I'm really excited about what we're having the opportunity to do to take this forward. But there's a part of me that goes 'that's sad.'”

rshawgo@jg.net