by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
I try to keep to my lane when writing these blog posts. Today, however, calls for an exception.
Earlier this week Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University for the past decade announced that he will be stepping down at the end of the year.
Many of my younger co-workers ask: “Who is Mitch Daniels?” True, he may not be a household name, but there are plenty of reasons why he should be. Let me share a few of President Daniels’ accomplishments at Purdue:
While tuition at many institutions has skyrocketed during the last decade, Daniels has frozen tuition at Purdue– for ten straight years.
Since Daniels took office in 2013, the cost of room and board at Purdue has declined by 5 percent.
As a result of these steps, borrowing by Purdue students has declined by 32 percent, leaving graduates more resources to buy house, start a family or put in savings.
Daniels helped to create a national online university along with establishing a network of Indiana STEM charter schools,
Daniels tenure has been marked by record investments in research and constantly working to enhance Purdue’s strengths in engineering, technology, and computer science. And, it has paid off; Purdue’s engineering program received its highest ranking (#4) ever.
Daniels created the Gallup-Purdue Index which offers a new method for measuring the value of a college degree.
At a time when woke ideology was threatening campuses and jeopardizing the freedom of anyone who dare express a different view.
Daniels met the challenge of woke ideology and its threat to constitutional rights with a firm hand, common sense wisdom and a commitment to keeping Purdue a place where different ideas could be discussed and debated. His leadership helped to keep Purdue open and the campus generally peaceful. In so doing, his example garnered the respect of friend and foe.
In a decade people were looking everywhere for leadership on our college campuses, Daniels provided a shining example of steady, principled leadership. He showed college costs could be brought under control and institutions held accountable.
Others took note. In 2016, columnist George Will wrote, “Purdue has the president the nation needs.”
Daniels leadership skills weren’t honed overnight. He served as Chief of Staff to Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. Later he was elected as a two-term Governor of Indiana. During the eighties he served as senior advisor to President Ronald Reagan and as Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.
Daniels commitment to accountability, innovation and common-sense leadership has benefited not only Indiana but the nation he loved.
In an era that that cries out for heroes and statemen, Mitch Daniels stands out. He deserves more credit than comes his way. That’s fine with him, but not for us. We need to learn from his example.
I tip my hat to Mitch Daniels. Thank you for your life of service and for showing us what could be done. Well done.
Enjoy a long and happy retirement!