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Purdue 2018 in Review: Giant Leaps, Tyler Trent and 49 to 20

"I think especially when one looks around at the higher education terrain elsewhere, we have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season."

Posted: Dec. 20, 2018 8:49 AM
Updated: Dec. 20, 2018 9:04 AM

You can watch the 2018 Purdue Year in Review video above.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- The campus is quiet, final grades are posted, and the last students are heading home for the winter hiatus. With just a handful of days, and the Music City Bowl, left in 2018, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is reflecting on the past year. It was another year of record enrollment and student affordability. 

"I think especially when one looks around at the higher education terrain elsewhere, we have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season," Daniels said.

Purdue Global:

The top headline this year arguably was the approval and launch of Purdue's Kaplan deal in April. Purdue Global, an online-based university aimed at the non-traditional student, now enrolls nearly 30,000 across the world. Daniels says that's a good start, but it needs to grow more quickly

"It turns out bringing a new name to the marketplace, is a little more gradual processed than at least some had forecasted," Daniels said."One very positive thing I will add is now several hundred Purdue employees are going to finish a degree that they otherwise wouldn't have."

"You know my son is grown now and I'll have a lot of time to put into school, focus more as an adult versus you know a young student," said Purdue faculty member Kim Joy in April.

There was controversy over the deal between some faculty members. The Higher Learning Commission ultimately approved the acquisition in March.

150th Anniversary and "Giant Leaps"

At Homecoming in September, the university kicked off its sesquicentennial anniversary. Purdue is celebrating 150 years of "Giant Leaps." Inspiration comes from Neil Armstrong's famous statement as he took the first steps on the moon.

The centerpiece for the celebration is a year-long Festival of Ideas. It will include themes ranging from technology such as A-I and automation, health, earth and space sciences, and sustainability.

"It's off to a great start," said Daniels. "We've already had Nobel prize winners and fascinating programs around the themes that our faculty selected."

Tyler Trent

"He's now an American asset, not just a Purdue legend."

President Daniels says while 2018 was a notable year all around, this year will be remembered for Tyler Trent. 

The former Purdue student announced in September that he would not be returning to campus, saying his health has taken a turn for the worse. Trent is in hospice care battling Osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. 

Trent's spirit and fight against cancer captured national attention this year. He successfully predicted Purdue Football's underdog win over Ohion State on Oct. 20, and has since been an ambassador for cancer research. Purdue created the "Tyler Trent Courage and Resilience Award" earlier this week. It's a scholarship in Trent's name that will be given to students battling adversity while obtaining a degree at Purdue.

Tyler Trent is now a graduate of Purdue University, as he received an associates degree in computer information technology. Trent has gained attention and support from notable people across the country, including President Donald Trump. You can even purchase his bobblehead, with sales going to cancer research.

"Even though I may be dying, until I'm actually dead, I'm still living," Trent said in an interview with News 18 in August.

You can donate to the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment here.

Jeff Brohm Stays

After many speculated he was headed to the University of Louisville, Purdue kept its head football coach Jeff Brohm in November. The second year Purdue head coach was offered the job at his alma mater after a 13-12 record over two years. Purdue will play in its second consecutive bowl on Dec. 28.

Brohm is expected to receive a major salary increase that will likely put him in the top 15 highest paid head coaches. The 2019 Purdue Football recruiting class is in the top 25 nationally.

Purdue Football Beats #2 Ohio State

49-20

John Schnatter Center

Not everything went according to plan. Purdue renamed its John H. Schnatter Center for Economic Research after the Papa John Pizza founder used a racial slur in May. The Purdue Board of Trustees said they would return the name of the center to the "Purdue University Research Center in Economics. The board also said it would offer to return the $8 Million for naming rights. 

The board said it was taking the action to avoid distraction from the center's work. The school said it did not want to deviate from its stance on racial relations and tolerance. 

BGR Comedy Show

During the closing ceremony of Purdue's freshman orientation (BGR) in August, students walked out of the Elliott Hall of Music after they said comedian Andy Gross sexually harassed a student on stage.

Videos showed Gross telling the female student to move closer and closer so their backsides were "cheek to cheek." He also told her to put her hand on his leg so he could feel her "vibrations." Students in the audience said she was visibly uncomfortable. When he got a magic trick wrong, some speculate on purpose, he said "at least I got a feel out of it."

"He kept referencing the voice in his pants and it was so gross," said freshman Brynne Hunt in August.

Purdue called the act "inappropriate and contrary to the university's values."

Gross apologized for his performance

Data Breach

A financial aid data breach on May 17th exposed the personal information of more than 26,000 applicants to Purdue. An anonymous tip led News 18 to the report.

A representative from Purdue said an employee from Purdue's Division of Financial Aid inadvertently sent one prospective parent a list of applicant names, birthdays and social security numbers.

The parent immediately notified the sender and cooperated with the university to destroy the file. In May, Purdue believed the problem was solved, but they still notified those affected.

Bell Tower Clock Fall

Purdue student Yang Yu was in the right place at the right time, and captured the clock from Purdue's Bell Tower crashing to the ground. It was WLFI's most watched web story video in 2018.

The video shows crews working on the clock tower. The clock then breaks free from the crane, appears to hit the bucket lift before hitting the bell tower and crashing to the ground. The bell tower is 160 feet tall. The clock was near the top when it broke loose.

A spokesperson with Purdue said the Verdin Company, based out of Cincinnati, was contracted to do the work. The company specializes in cast bronze bells, carillons, clocks, towers and organs. 

The company apologized to Purdue, and replaced the clock. 

Purdue Employee Spousal Insurance Plans

Purdue put its announced employee spousal insurance plan on hold after controversy amongst faculty. Working spouses of Purdue employees, who had medical insurance through the university, were supposed to see a change in their coverage on Jan. 1.

Purdue Loses Los Alamos Laboratory Bid

In June, Purdue lost the bid to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The deal would have brought in $2.5 billion to the university over ten years.

"That was a disappointment, but that's what happens when you aim very high," said Daniels.

The Nuclear Security Administration awarded the contract to Triad National Security. The top research and nuclear weapons facility will continue to run in New Mexico. 

Purdue University was a top finalist.

Homecoming Change

A long-standing homecoming tradition at Purdue changed in favor of "inclusivity." In the past, the top male and female candidates, as selected by students and a formal interview process, were crowned king and queen. The university changed the title in June and now acknowledges the top two candidates, regardless of gender, as "homecoming royalty." 

At the ceremony in September, Lily Bishop and Grant Wood were crowned. 

Purdue Ft. Wayne

Purdue University Ft. Wayne made the transition from  Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW) in August. 

The change began July 1. Purdue trustees approved the name change back in April of 2017.

The change was part of a re-brand by Purdue and Indiana Universities. IU will still oversee its health science department. Purdue will operate campus management and the rest of the academic areas.

Athletic teams are still known as the Mastadons.

Degree in Space

The university awarded an out-of-this-world honorary doctorate degree during May commencement. NASA astronaut, and Purdue alum, Andrew Feustel was awarded his degree while on board the International Space Station. 

Record Giving

Purdue's Day of Giving raised more than $37 million in just 24 hours. The 2018 total beat last year's record of $28 million. 

The fiscal year that ended in June also broke record giving with over $451 million.

In 2019, Purdue's 7-year-long Ever True Campaign will come to an end. The university's original goal was to raise 2.019 billion dollars by June 30. As of Dec. 1, the number was past the goal at 2.024 billion.

Boiler Black

The second university licensed beer was unveiled in 2018 by People's Brewing Company. Boiler Black is an American Black Ale, similar to a porter. People's owner Chris Johnson described it as "approachable."

"It will have some roasted characters, kind of like a coffee," said Johnson. "It will be dark in color and be a much different beer (than Boiler Gold) with a richer flavor."

The university released its first licensed beer, Boiler Gold, in August of 2017. 

The can, similar to Boiler Gold, features the Purdue train. The addition of the 150th anniversary logo is also included on the can. 

Daniels Contract

The new year will begin with Mitch Daniels remaining as president. The trustees renewed his contract in April, making him president until either side gives a one year notice.

"I had my annual physical so as far as I know, all systems are a go," Daniels joked when asked if we would be talking with him next year. "Apart from something unexpected. I love this place. I love the students, the work our faculty does, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it. I'm eager to press on for awhile."

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Some slick roads later tonight & tomorrow morning.
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