UPDATE: The Star has some initial reaction from the academic community with some questioning his qualifications for the job while others lauded the news:
“I think the faculty would feel more comfortable with someone who has academic experience, someone who’s stood in front of a class of Purdue students after a long party weekend and gained their attention — these kind of challenges,” said Otto Doering, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue, who has advised Indiana governors since the 1970s.
To succeed, he said, Daniels will need to immediately reach out to faculty members and include them in his plans.
Last fall, the board’s search committee asked the University Senate to conduct a survey that asked students, faculty and staff what kind of expertise they wanted in their next president. All groups surveyed agreed it was “essential that the new president have academic credentials equivalent to a tenured full professor,” the committee wrote in its executive summary.
Daniels has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a law degree from Georgetown University, but he has spent his career in business and government settings, not in a classroom or research lab.
By contrast, Purdue’s presidents have usually been top scholars and lifelong academics, with degrees in medicine, engineering or physics. Córdova, the current president, is an internationally known astrophysicist.
That said, as word of Daniels’ selection reverberated around the campus, some faculty said they were softening their view that the next president must have an academic background.
“It got me thinking here’s an individual who’s been successful in business,” said David J. Williams, a veterinary professor of medical illustration and vice president of the University Senate. “Here’s an individual who’s been successful in the political arena who could harness all this creative energy at Purdue. I find that part of the idea of Mitch Daniels . . . that part of it I find exciting.”
Joe Rust, student government president at Purdue, said many students are excited by news of Daniels’ selection but concerned about his track record with higher education funding. Purdue lost about $45.5 million over two years in state funding, starting in 2009, in part because of Daniels’ instructions to the Indiana Commission on Higher Education to cut higher-education funding.
Still, many observers lauded the choice, calling Daniels a strong executive with a history of guiding large organizations, from Indiana government to his tenure as a senior executive at Eli Lilly and Co.
“It doesn’t concern me that he doesn’t have an academic background,” said Philip T. Powell, associate professor of business economics and public policy at Indiana University. “He’s a proven leader. He can bring a battleship of talent with him.” . . .