The last administrative detail in separating Indiana and Purdue universities' half-century partnership in Fort Wayne was completed Monday. The Higher Learning Commission's approval of the IPFW realignment is a bittersweet milestone in the promise the two first-class institutions hold, but also a concern for losses the region might experience.
IPFW Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer pledged continued cooperation in a news release.
“As we transition to being separate and independent – yet equally committed – partners, I encourage everyone to remember our number one priority – our students,” he wrote.
Anyone who has studied at or sent a student to West Lafayette or Bloomington can be confident students will come first, whether it is studying at Purdue University Fort Wayne or Indiana University Fort Wayne. Students, in fact, will likely experience the least disruption from the change and, we hope, will reap the greatest benefit.
But those who have witnessed the effects of IPFW's contributions to this region won't forget them. Its graduates top the list – our family members, neighbors, co-workers and more. They contribute to our community in countless ways and a 2014 survey of new graduates found 89 percent planned to live and work in northeast Indiana after graduation.
IPFW has enriched the region in many other ways. Its Centers of Excellence are key contributors: The Community Research Institute, Wireless Technology Center, Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics and the Environmental Resources Center, to name a few.
Culturally, IPFW has brought the world to Fort Wayne through music, art and theater. Its Omnibus Lecture Series has been a community treasure, with free community lectures by fascinating and entertaining speakers, including Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Sandra Day O'Connor, John Updike and Nikki Giovanni.
The university has inspired us with sponsored events such as RiverFest, which helped show residents the potential of our three rivers. The annual Tapestry event continues to raise thousands of dollars for scholarships and to serve as an inspiring and educational event for women. NCAA Division I athletics have been a gift to the community – drawing students and fans to IPFW and raising the region's stature.
The contributions IPFW has made should continue under its new structure, but northeast Indiana residents must remain vigilant to ensure they do. Indiana and Purdue universities are arguably the most powerful institutions in the state. It's easy for university and state officials to focus on Indianapolis and the flagship campuses at the expense of other Indiana communities. It will be our responsibility to hold state officials to their word in maintaining both academic and community strengths in this region.