SCARPINO: We should be on. Today is Friday, November 16th and I’m interviewing Dr. Martin Jischke in his office on the campus of Purdue University. This is the second interview with Dr. Jischke. For the record I’d like to once again ask your permission to record the interview, to transcribe the recording, and to place the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives for the use of that institution’s patrons.
SCARPINO: Thank you very much. As I said this is the second interview and in the first interview we talked broadly about your career from high school through your chancellorship at University of Missouri Rolla and 1991 you accepted the position of President of Iowa State University?
SCARPINO: What attracted you to Iowa State?
JISCHKE: Oh, quite a number of things. First it was a considerably larger, broader university than University of Missouri at Rolla. Iowa is a state that historically has been very supportive of higher education and education in general. Standardized test scores in that state are typically in the top two or three in the country and Iowa State enjoys a very fine reputation in a number of areas; certainly in engineering and certain areas of science and agriculture and veterinary medicine. After I visited with the Board of Regents at the university in Iowa—they are responsible for the three universities: Iowa State, University of Iowa, and Northern Iowa—it was clear to me they were looking for somebody who had the kinds of skills and talents that I have. They wanted more emphasis on the impact of Iowa State on the state of Iowa including, in particular, economically. Second, they wanted a president who would be a bit more external than the predecessors. Third, fundraising, financial resources, were an important part of what was needed at Iowa State. They liked the fact that I had an engineering and science background. So it was a good fit. I had been at the University of Missouri Rolla for about five years. It just felt like a good time. It worked for my family. Our son was finishing grade school and so was about to start high school and a move once they’re in high school is a rather difficult thing for kids. Our daughter at the time was finishing the third grade, headed to the fourth grade, so it was a good time for us to think about a move and we found Iowa a very attractive place. The quality of the schools in Ames where we ultimately resided was just absolutely first rate and we wanted our kids to have a good education. So all of those factors came together.
SCARPINO: When you got there how did you go about establishing yourself as a leader of the university?
JISCHKE: It was an interesting thing in this sense—in that the Board of Regents in Iowa had approved a strategic plan for Iowa State literally three or four months before I got there. So in inherited a strategic plan and I thought a lot about whether I could live with that plan and whether it fit with I thought was needed and what I could do. I ultimately concluded I could. When I first came to Iowa State I tried to do a number of things to sort of demonstrate my presence. It turned out the first day of my appointment was a Saturday and I was in the office working. I held a press conference. One thing I’ve done both at Iowa State and at Purdue, the actual first thing I did, is I had the affirmative action officer come in to the office and I signed the Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action Statement of the university because I wanted there to be absolutely no question about my commitment to that. That was the first thing I did. I want to say that was either at eight or nine o’clock in the morning and the next hour, at nine or ten, whatever the time was, I held a press conference. Now it was an interesting press conference in that between the time I accepted the appointment as president and I actually started, a new budget had been passed by the legislature and it required cuts in the university’s funding. So the first thing I had to deal with was a tough budget situation. I tried very hard to put a positive spin on coming to Iowa and yet be honest and realistic about the budget circumstance that it was not happy. I was going to work hard to change it. We were going try to be very careful about making sure that the impact on the academic programs would be minimized. We’re going to try to raise some money privately and we were going to try to make Iowa State not only a better university for the students, that was our first charge, but frankly a better university for the State of Iowa. It was an interesting leadership challenge. One of the highlights of that first semester was after these budget cuts came through and I’m the new guy in town, making one of my first reports to the university senate. This is a largely faculty group that meets once a month to talk about academic policy. I made my remarks and was relatively upbeat about coming to Iowa. I was pleased to be there, pleased to be a member of the faculty, and after the end of these remarks one of the faculty in the back of the room raised his hand and he said how can you be so optimistic when the circumstances appear to be so bleak. Spontaneously, without a lot of thought, I said something that has lived with me ever since. I said to him, you can’t whine your way to the top. And I believe that passionately, particularly at a university. I don’t think you can get better by being a pessimist or whining. I’ve never been able to raise money that way. I’ve never gotten a governor or a legislative committee or a legislature to give me more money by complaining or whining. But that statement, you can’t whine your way to the top, sort of characterized the initial time I was at Iowa State and while we had a lot of tough issues to deal with, some of which became quite contentious, I’ve always tried to put a positive spin on it, on whatever the circumstances were. More to the point, I’m of a mind that you can’t let circumstances dictate what you do or your sense of what you can accomplish. I think part of leadership is creating an environment for progress no matter what hand you’re being dealt. Now, how much progress you can make and what the ultimate result is, is obviously conditioned by these larger forces, these budgetary circumstances and so on. But you can’t give up your spirit. You can’t give up your optimism. If you do then I think you should step aside.
SCARPINO: What were the magnitude of these cuts?
JISCHKE: Oh, gosh. It’s so long ago I can’t remember. They were not trivial. You know, in the five to ten percent range.
SCARPINO: And you mentioned there were some other tough issues that you had to face?
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah. The regents of Iowa very much wanted the universities to adopt more strategic visions of their work and in particularly wanted us to think very hard and carefully about whether we ought to continue all of the activities we were doing. One in particular at Iowa State that we focused on as a result of that kind of thinking was whether Iowa State should continue to own a television station. We owned a television station, WFYI, and it was the first television station in the state. It dated back to the fifties.
SCARPINO: Was this a public television station?
JISCHKE: No. This was a…
JISCHKE: …commercial television station that was networked. I have forgotten the network affiliation, whether it was ABC or CBS, but anyway it was a network station run on the campus of the university and by every sensible business measure it was not a very successful station in terms of audience size, in terms of profitability and there was a big argument or debate about its impact on the academic programs. Well clearly, some of the students had a chance to work at the station. It did not lead to a journalism or communications program that was nationally distinguished. It was unclear what the impacts were on the academic programs or more precisely whether they were substantial or not. Second, we estimated that the value of the station in the market was 10 to 15 million dollars which is not a trivial amount of money. So at the urging of the board or regents, particularly its president, we put the station up for sale. It occasioned a very tough, at times bitter, debate about giving away this crown jewel of the university, about the interference of the board in the inner workings of the university. It’s an interesting point of view. I mean, they are the governing board but there was a view that they were meddling too much and that I was a tool of this meddling as president and an argument about whether, let’s say ten or fifteen million dollars could make a difference. Then the process by which we bid it had problems in it that were, I think, a result of inexperience by some of our financial people. But we ultimately sold it for, my memory is fourteen million dollars in cash, and there are people to this day that think it was a mistake. But that was a tough issue because at least certain members of the faculty saw this as heavy-handed governance. They were concerned about my role as president and whether I was defending their interest or some other interest. My own view in the final analysis is that we could spend the fifteen million dollars, or fourteen million dollars, more effectively in other ways. We created an endowment so it was perpetual. I didn’t think it contributed much to the academic programs at the university. It was almost a diversion. We had another tough issue when I was president at Iowa State that involved the naming of a building. There is an alum of Iowa State named Carrie Chapman Catt who graduated around the turn of the century, that is the 19th to the 20th. Was a remarkable student—student leader, academically a super star—and ultimately went on to lead the effort to pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote in federal elections. She also founded the league of women voters, was also involved in the peace movement after World War II—an extraordinarily accomplished woman. My predecessor, the interim president, a man named Milton Glick who’s today the president of the University of Nevada at Reno, decided to name one of the oldest buildings on campus in her honor: Carrie Chapman Catt Hall. Then when he did not become permanent president and I did, I was stuck with finding the money to do the remodeling or the renovation of this building and it was a huge struggle. It was a five million dollar renovation and we really struggled to find donors. But we ultimately put the five million together. On the day we dedicated it, we had a huge ceremony, a huge luncheon, and one of the faculty in the drama department actually put on a one-act play about Carrie Chapman Catt. In the middle of all of this a group of African American students raised the issue of whether Catt was a racist based on a statement she made in the process of passing the 19th Amendment in which, I can’t quote her precisely but I can quote the gist of it, she made a comment that giving women the right to vote would not undermine the white supremacy in the south. This was seen as an utterly racist comment, that Catt was appealing to racist instincts in the south in order to pass this amendment giving women the right to vote in federal elections and it was part of a much longer argument debate in American politics about the tradeoff between advancing women’s interests and advancing the interests, quite specifically, of African Americans. It led to a group of students called the September 29th, I believe, 9/29 Group who lobbied, picketed, demonstrated, hunger-striked for a changing of the name and leadership of the university and ultimately me. I had spent a lot of time thinking about this. I actually read the specific speech that she gave and I tried to gain an understanding of whether Catt was, in fact, appealing to racist sentiments and what the nature of her statement was. I ultimately concluded that Catt was not a racist and that when read carefully and the entire speech, I concluded she was making a statement of fact, not a political statement and I think, in fact, it was true what she said. So I decided not to change the name of the building or at least I would not recommend that to the Board of Regents. They ultimately would make the decision. That controversy went on for years. There was a group in particular of three very bright and talented African American students who kept this issue alive and it was controversial. There was just no question about it. One of the lessons I learned in that, or think I learned, was that issues of race and gender, sexual orientation would fit in this, are so intensely personal and so incendiary in a community that very few people want to join in the debate. So it was largely an argument between me, as president, and the small group of students. Lots of people watching the debate and I think privately lots of people had an opinion but in the final analysis it was a pretty lonely argument for me.
SCARPINO: Do you think that’s sometimes the role of a leader?
JISCHKE: This is an example where there is a certain loneliness. In this case I concluded that the vast majority of the community wished it would go away. A large number of the minority community were sympathetic to the students and wished the name were changed. A large number of the majority women saw this as a symbol of a longer struggle for recognition of women’s rights in the same way that the United States had confronted the rights of ethnic and racial minorities. There were lots of subtexts of that sort but very few, precious few, people would step forward. The students went on a hunger strike. One kid ended up in the hospital which worried me enormously. I couldn’t be sure if this was a publicity stunt or whether he had the will to do something damaging to himself. It worried me dearly. I called him in the hospital and said Allan, whatever you do, don’t hurt yourself. He left the hospital and survived so I think my instincts are that he was not prepared really to die for this was right. But it was a tense and trying and deals with an issue that’s, as I say, intensely personal, intensely emotional and very difficult to talk about publicly.
SCARPINO: What do you think the role is of a university in dealing with issues like that? I mean there were people in the past like say, Thomas Jefferson, who were both brilliant leaders and absolute racists.
JISCHKE: I had two or three views on this. First, I did everything I could to defend the students’ right to raise these questions and to disagree. Believe passionately that it’s not only a First Amendment issue it’s an academic freedom issue. These students I think honestly and honorably had read the history and came to an interpretation that, while I disagreed with, I thought was legitimate and I thought they ought to have the right to say what they were saying and I tried to avoid ever shutting them down. I met with them. We talked about it. I met with lots of students and talked about it a lot. So that was my first point of view. The second point of view I had was that I thought ultimately I had to decide for myself where I personally stood on this and I had to read the history and come to some understanding. I did, and it turns out I didn’t agree with the students, and I thought I owed it to myself to be intellectually honest and to not treat this as simply a political issue. Then thirdly, I thought that there was a larger moral issue dealing with Catt that for me was an important consideration. It was, even if the students were right, which I didn’t think they were, but even if they were, I thought Catt had been such a remarkable political leader and such a distinguished alum of the university that when taken as a whole her life was exemplary. To dismiss all those accomplishments and unravel a decision that had been taken by the governing board that involved lots of donors contributing to the naming of this building, and had done very publicly and very openly, I thought was a mistake and I worried about the intolerance that was in the students’ view of all of this. The kind of arrogance of youth that one mistake was enough to condemn a person; that there wasn’t a charitable impulse. There wasn’t an impulse that said, you know, what you said was really bad and it suggested an attitude that was frankly awful, certainly by today’s standards. I think when she did it in the 1910’s and ‘20’s maybe the world was a little different but there wasn’t this instinct to forgive. I thought the lessons of Gandhi and the lessons of Martin Luther King, Jr. were that in forgiveness is the ultimate moral authority and the students didn’t understand that. When I tried to make that argument it was, I either was not persuasive enough, an argument they simply were not prepared to accept. I ultimately thought that the university, these kinds of decisions, these kinds of issues, are ultimately decided by the governing board and the properly appointed president, that the students don’t run the university.
SCARPINO: Did you find differences or similarities between exercising leadership as a chancellor and exercising leadership as a president?
JISCHKE: There’s a couple of huge differences. Practically, as a president, you report to the board not to another administrator. As Chancellor of Rolla, I reported to a president. So in that sense I didn’t have the full range of responsibilities of an academic leader and certainly in terms of relationships with the board. Second, what I would characterize as the bully pulpit that comes from being the leading administrator, academic, of the university, the chancellor doesn’t have quite the same status as the president does. So, one’s interest, one’s platform is, in some sense, smaller. I decided, by the way, in that experience, that I never wanted to be president of a system. While it has a certain authority—it’s a higher position at least in an administrative hierarchy—it’s so removed from students, from alumni, from the real work of the university I never wanted to be a system president. I found it unattractive. So Iowa State, I was president of a campus. Purdue—I was president of this campus in West Lafayette, and while I had system-like responsibilities in Calumet, Westville, and Fort Wayne, I was deeply involved here at Purdue in the student body, with the faculty, with the alumni, with the academic programs—I found that the exciting part of being a university president. I mean, it’s the real stuff of the place and I did not want to be removed from that. So there’s a huge difference, in my view, between being chancellor at Rolla and being president of the University of Missouri but there was more similarity with being president of Iowa State.
SCARPINO: How did you go about establishing goals for Iowa State University?
JISCHKE: I feel strongly about that. I’m a list maker. I mean I’m almost compulsive about preparing objectives and trying to accomplish them and, as long as I can remember as an administrator, I develop annual goals for myself. Initially I just did it personally. I mean I wrote it down and used it as a guide for what I wanted to do. As I became older, more experienced, more mature, I started to open the process up to allow for input from others and by the time I got to Purdue it was a process that ultimately involved the governing board. I’d make my first, with consultation with others inside the university, I’d develop a list of presidential priorities. I’d share it with the board. We’d talk about it. Then we’d change them and ultimately those priorities are what I focused on. I do the same thing on a daily basis. So I’m very much a believer in the idea that accomplishing important objectives, accomplishing a mission or a vision is facilitated by having explicit goals or objectives on reasonable time schedules. In some cases daily, by semesters, certainly on a yearly basis because I’ve come around to a view that first if you write it down and commit yourself to it you’re much more likely to accomplish it. You won’t forget. There’s a certain sense of accountability at a personal level to what you said you would do. You’re putting yourself in the position of having said I’m going to do A, B, and C and when you let other people know, for those of us that are kind of achievement oriented, goal oriented, it’s pretty compelling. Second, maybe even more importantly, my experiences, by carefully setting explicit goals you shape the environment to accomplish those goals. Particularly when you’re president or leader of a complex organization, you don’t get very much done alone. It requires the efforts of a huge number of people, some of whom are in the organization and some of whom are not. One of the ways you marshal those talents and those commitments and that support is by letting them know what you are accomplishing. So I think the act of setting goals helps accomplish those goals by sharing them publicly, by talking about it, by getting buy-in, by giving people a chance to shape those goals and to argue about whether that’s the right one and so on. I just think it conditions the institution for a much more likely set of—more success. The third thing I would tell you is my experience is in setting goals, if you’re good at it and do it cleverly, you’re positioned to take advantage of opportunities that you never saw coming. That’s happened to me, I can’t tell you how many times. By having a strategic plan or an annual set of goals or an explicit set of priorities, new opportunities will come along that sort of fit in a way that I’m not sure we would have recognized had we not gone through the process of establishing priorities and goals and plans. So I think thinking ahead, trying to understand where you’d like to go, what you’d like to accomplish collectively, better positions you to recognize opportunities when they come up. You’re sort of prepared for the uncertainty that’s in the nature of things.
SCARPINO: Can you think of an example at Iowa State or Purdue where one of these opportunities came your way that you capitalized on?
JISCHKE: Oh, we’re sitting here in Discovery Park. Discovery Park happened because I tried to raise some money with the Lilly Endowment. For those who know anything about the Endowment, it’s a huge fund, but they tend not to respond to proposals. They tend to invite them. So I innocently, as the new president, went in and say—gee, we’d love to be able to do something with the Endowment. They thanked me and I went home. But then I got a call from them and they said they wanted to talk to me and ultimately said they’d like to help advance the strategic interests of Purdue. You know, whatever the new president’s strategy was, they wanted to be supportive and out of that came Discovery Park. Interdisciplinary, large-scale research effort that was focused on selected areas where Purdue had a chance to be really good like, nanotechnology, the biosciences, and so on with the added impetus to do things that had potential economic consequences for Indiana in the long run. So economic development was an integral part of that Discovery Park idea. So we get Discovery Park going. Today’s it’s a $400 million venture roughly half in facilities and equipment and the other half in programs. After it started, the first initial effort at Discovery Park, we had a nanotechnology center, a biosciences center, a center for e-enterprise—think of that as applications of digital communication and computation—and then a center for entrepreneurship. That was the original concept. Today there are 10 centers and I might have anticipated several of those back when this started. But one that absolutely nobody at Purdue had on their radar screen or thought of, was the Center for Health Care Engineering. We got a call from the Regenstrief Foundation leadership and they wanted to visit with us. They were thinking of starting a second Regenstrief Center. There was a Regenstrief Institute at the Indiana Medical School. It was focused on a huge clinical database. One of the most extensive such databases in the country. They’ve been supporting this for like 30 years and the board of the Regenstrief Foundation decided they might want to do a second one and we had extensive conversations with them. The first suggestion I made they dismissed out of hand. They didn’t want to do it. We ultimately came around to this idea of a Center for Health Care Engineering focused on using modern systems engineering, modern management principles, to try to re-think the organization of health care delivery. That idea and that proposal would not have been funded without Discovery Park. One of the things that persuaded the Regenstrief Foundation to fund Purdue rather than Carnegie-Melon or Michigan or Northwestern and whoever else we were competing with, was Discovery Park. So Discovery Park created this opportunity that I had absolutely no concept of back when we started Discovery Park. But having created Discovery Park and having created this new capacity, the opportunity of a Regenstrief Center for Health Care Engineering came along and that’s what I mean. Thinking about the future, planning strategically, positions you to seize opportunities that you might not otherwise even know about if you hadn’t done that. I think people who try to think ahead, who try to think strategically, who try to understand the future, tend to have a more sensitive set of antenna, a radar that’s looking out rather than in. Great strategic planning, in my view, ultimately confronts the question of for whom do we exist, who do we serve? It’s particularly important for a public university. In that process you begin to look for allies. You begin to look for problems, needs, opportunities. So when things come up, you’re better positioned for it and if you build that kind of culture in an institution you can make magical things happen. Not only you as the leader think that way, everybody thinks that way.
SCARPINO: Is that part of your role as a leader?
SCARPINO: Shape the way…
SCARPINO: …people think?
JISCHKE: One of the things I’m proudest of in my work at Purdue is, I think, Purdue became a more outward looking, a more entrepreneurial, a more nimble, a more exciting university. Because this kind of thinking that I’ve just described became part of the thinking of lots of people. A lot more people looking for opportunities. A lot more people understanding that they could shape those opportunities. That you can control your own destiny. You can shape it. As opposed to the view where you sort of sit in the office, wait for the check to come over the transom every year after the legislature acts. I mean a kind of passive view of moving the institution to a much more active, engaged, energized, approach that is tremendously exciting and it’s very much who I am. I mean I think that way.
SCARPINO: As you involved Iowa State and then Purdue in economic development were you conscious of the fact that you were breaking molds?
JISCHKE: Not as conscious then as I am now. I started thinking this way 25 years ago when I was in Oklahoma. I’m not certain it was the Midwest that I was talking about but it was my view in Oklahoma that that state needed to think more strategically about its economy. It was driven by natural resources, oil and gas in particular. I saw similar things in Missouri. It was unmistakably clear in Iowa. The difference between Oklahoma, Missouri on the one hand and Iowa and Indiana on the other is the leaders in Iowa and Indiana understood that, at least the leaders of the governing boards. The regents in Iowa understood that and wanted the universities more engaged. Without question the trustees here at Purdue made that utterly explicit. Their language was we want a new president to take Purdue to the next level in a way that makes Indiana a better state. They understood and were quite explicit in our private discussions that they thought there was a huge opportunity for Purdue to play a leading role in Indiana economic development. What surprised me about Indiana is there wasn’t very much of that thinking. I was stunned because it seemed to me transparently obvious and what was also clear to me relatively soon after I got here and started going around the state talking to people, talking about the university, is that a lot of people at the local level knew that something was happening in Indiana’s economy, particularly the automotive industry, that unless we started doing some things differently, the future could be rather bleak for Indiana and they were looking to Purdue to do something. Purdue was seen as a statewide asset. So I knew I was plowing new ground at Purdue. That was clear to me. What was surprising to me is how much new ground I was plowing outside of Purdue. I just assumed that governors, legislators, mayors, business leaders, understood this but my sense now looking back is this was very embryonic and there are a lot of people in Indiana who had not yet made the connection between education in general and higher education in particular, and especially Purdue and Indiana’s future. I think one of the things I was able to contribute is a deeper understanding of that. The building of partnerships, the beginning of a set of attitudes in Indiana that saw this connection between education, the private sector, and government as the key to shaping a new future. I enjoyed doing it and I think in that sense I did break a mold. I would add a second thing that I think I broke the mold on. Not just the role of higher education and economic development but I think I broke the mold on the role of a university president as a public figure speaking out on these kinds of issues. If you will in the language of higher education, was a much more external president than people at Purdue or in Indiana were used to.
SCARPINO: You, I’m looking ahead in my notes here, you had a goal at one point that you were going to visit numerous communities throughout the state.
JISCHKE: Oh, yeah.
SCARPINO: Sixty day-long visits to Indiana communities.
JISCHKE: Yeah. I averaged between 350 and 400 speeches a year, essentially one a day.
SCARPINO: Mostly in Indiana?
JISCHKE: Yes, overwhelmingly in Indiana and I was all over the state. I’ve been in a lot of communities and I enjoyed it, number one. I mean I enjoy meeting people and overwhelmingly people were very gracious and hospitable. For a lot of communities a visit by the President of Purdue is a big deal and they were honored to have me there. It was a way of, on the one hand, telling people that we were interested in them and their needs and as a public university we wanted to serve them and we wanted to listen. We wanted to know what they thought we could do to be helpful. It was also marketing the university. I’m shameless about that. I mean I would tell people about what things we were doing well and why they ought to be proud of Purdue. Certainly wanted to reinforce their instincts to encourage the legislature to be generous to us and to try to act as one of the many linkages between the university on the one hand and the citizens of Indiana who own the university. I would come back from these day long visits, almost without exception, with a community leader or a company or a prospective student that I would pass on to the appropriate person in the university. So I was not only doing but in a sense being a role model for everybody at the university about this engagement idea. This notion of being connected to the people of Indiana and my perhaps self-serving but total, I’m convinced that it did a lot to help position the university favorably with the citizens of Indiana and I think it made Purdue a more vital place.
SCARPINO: Consistent with your emphasis on engagement by which you set an example yourself, do you think that the university during your presidency figured out ways to reward people, reward faculty, for engagement?
JISCHKE: Yes. It’s a work in progress so I wouldn’t say we’re finished on it. But yeah, we have awards for faculty. We have special fellowships. We have grant funding for engagement activities. We have people who have gotten promoted and tenured with a special emphasis on engagement. So, the usual set of rewards are there. The usual incentives are there. It’s still not nearly as predominant a factor in the success of faculty and others as teaching and research but its relative emphasis has grown. There’s no question about it and I think two very positive things have happened. One, I think there is a consensus within the university that while not everybody is involved in engagement, that it’s overall a good thing for the university. That it’s a positive thing in terms of very practical considerations about public support, financing, private fundraising, jobs for students. I mean lots of good things happened because we’re more engaged. Second, I think a surprising number of faculty have found out they enjoy doing it. The most interesting place for me that this has happened is in our College of Liberal Arts where…
SCARPINO: I’d like to follow up on that, actually.
JISCHKE: ..most people…
SCARPINO: How did you see that happening?
JISCHKE: …most people think that engagement by engineers or technology or agriculture or veterinary medicine, consumer and family sciences, all of that, pretty straightforward. But how do you relate liberal arts—modern languages, history, sociology, anthropology, etc.? We hired a new Dean of Liberal Arts and I—when she showed up—I called her in and said I’m prepared to give you an additional $100,000 a year to facilitate engagement in the College of Liberal Arts. The idea is let’s find a way to reward faculty for going out and talking about their scholarly work in a way that would be relevant to the people of Indiana and I gave a couple of examples. One of them was a historical example: the great debacle of 1815 when the State of Indiana went bankrupt. It borrowed a staggering amount of money to build canals just at a time when railroads were becoming the dominant mode of transportation and the state literally went bankrupt. As a consequence of that, the state of Indiana has rather conservative laws regarding debt and borrowing. I thought, given the interest in economic development and then questions about the role of the state in such efforts, that discussing that historical example as an example of Indiana trying to be very progressive, making a huge investment, and betting on the wrong technology was a useful thing for things like Chambers of Commerce and others. The second example I gave was to talk about the role of immigration in the history of the United States. This was based on my traveling around the state and seeing this, what I think is an exploding Hispanic population in Indiana and helping communities understand both why this is happening – the kind of underlying economic forces that are driving people to migrate, and second, what do we know historically about immigrants? I mean what challenges do immigrants bring to a community? Not Hispanics but maybe Irish immigrants or Polish immigrants or whatever. Well, initially the dean suggested that we give faculty a certain amount of money if they made such a presentation to a community organization and that the money would sit in an account and at the end of the year they could use it for summer salary or for research travel. So it would be support money. That was a great idea. She couldn’t get the money spent in a year. There were so few faculty who were willing to do it that in fact she couldn’t spend $100,000 and this is a faculty of four or five hundred. I mean it’s a huge faculty. Well, I watched this for a couple, three years and when that dean left I took the money back. Then a new dean came and after about three or four months he came to my office and said would you please let me try again and I think I gave him $75,000 a year. Now, there’s a huge program called PLACE, something Liberal Arts Community Education—Program of Liberal Arts Community Education. It’s focused in the larger sort of Lafayette/West Lafayette/Tippecanoe County and surrounding counties focused on guess what? Immigration. They did it last year and it was so overwhelmingly successful that the communities have asked them to continue it this year on the same topic because, in fact, immigration is a huge issue in this region. There are large numbers of Hispanics that are in the manufacturing industry and are changing communities. Communities are struggling to deal with these issues and it’s added a vitality to the sense of connectedness. Research programs have grown out of it. Student internships have grown out of it. So even in Liberal Arts we’ve been able to create this engagement. It’s very different than the kind of engagement that goes on in engineering. In engineering it’s largely engineering faculty and students working on technical problems within companies and industries. This is a more community focused thing and it’s on this, at least for now, on this big issue of immigration. But I think it has made our Liberal Arts College more vital, more exciting, and the hidden bonus, more welcoming of minority students. There’s a deeper understanding within the faculty, the administration, of the College of Liberal Arts about this new population and we at Purdue were, frankly, underrepresented in Hispanics. So this is an area where we need to work. So it’s had an impact all across the university and essentially every college and school at Purdue has somebody at the dean’s office level that has engagement as their primary responsibility.
SCARPINO: I want to ask you one more question about Iowa before I commit to Purdue for good.
SCARPINO: I read that you established or inherited a strategic plan with the goal of having Iowa State become the best land-grant university in the nation.
SCARPINO: Were you successful?
JISCHKE: We were successful in the sense that we accomplished a lot of the goals of the strategic plan. We improved the learning environment for students. We added more high ability students. We reversed a trend on the size of the faculty. We grew the research program. We grew the minority student population. We were much more involved in economic development and we raised a fair amount of private money at least by Iowa State’s standards. We had the largest capital campaign in the history of the university. Whether we actually became the best land-grant university, I think objectively and candidly if you were to take a careful poll we probably weren’t but we became a better land-grant university. The idea of trying to be the best I think was salutary. It did two things. It reinforced our historical commitment to land-grant values and sort of defined us uniquely within Iowa. Second, we said we weren’t happy with just better than we were last year. Our goal was to be the best and while it’s lofty and we can argue about what the measures of best are—I’m going to come back to that—I think saying we wanted to be the best was a way of elevating everyone’s sights. One of the subtleties in saying you want to be the best land-grant university in the country says that a comparison with other land-grant universities per se is not the measure of excellence. Land-grant universities are universities that have a special commitment to the place they are, the state they are in. So the best land-grant university in the country in Iowa is a different university than the best land-grant university in the country for California or Michigan. So in that sense a comparison solely with other universities misses this contextual point that land-grants are designed to serve the needs of their states in a very unique and special way. For example, in Iowa agriculture and specifically corn, soy beans and hogs are really, really important. Much more important than they are, for example, in New Hampshire. So the excellence of Iowa State in agronomy, in veterinary medicine, does not necessarily have its counterpart in New Hampshire. So just comparing academic programs misses this point. There’s a point about emphasis, about the program selection, and about the connectedness to the state that makes these comparisons if not problematic, more complex. But it succeeded in the sense that I think Iowa State became a better place. It energized people. It better connected us to the state and a lot of the specific objectives and metrics we had were achieved.
SCARPINO: With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently as president of Iowa State, leadership-wise?
JISCHKE: It’s a hard question in the following sense. I don’t think I have ever made a decision, ever, that at that point I thought was the wrong decision. I’ve never deliberately done that. So in that sense, given what I knew at the time, I can’t think of something I would have done differently. However with hindsight, after I learned some things, I might have done some things differently. I worried about a lot about this Carrie Chapman Catt thing because it took a lot of my personal energy. It took a lot of energy of the institution. While I still believe to this day that I made the right decision, I probably would have been better served had I reached out to these students more and been more forthcoming in talking to them and in putting the issue out more publicly, personally. But I don’t know that the conclusion would have been any different but maybe a little different process, a little different style. That’s one thing I probably would have done differently. A second thing, all in hindsight, we got the largest gift ever in the history of the United States for a college of agriculture. We got an $80 million gift. The story of that fundraising is a wonderful…
SCARPINO: Single gift?
JISCHKE: Yeah, single gift from a couple—$80 million and I asked them to give it for our Agronomy Department because I knew that’s where their interest was. Once the couple died and the gift matured, for two years we tried to talk the Agronomy Department into being bold about this $80 million gift. It effectively doubled the budget of the Agronomy Department. I mean they had a four million dollar budget and they were going to get four more. I mean this hardly ever happens and it was pretty unrestricted and that Agronomy Department only wanted to do more of what they were already doing. They had this once in a lifetime opportunity to literally redefine the field. I put together a group of really outstanding people nationally including a National Academy guy from Purdue, John Axtell. He’s now dead. We tried to get them to think about what about a huge thrust in the sort of molecular biology genomics side that would go beyond corn and soy beans and really try to get at basic scientific questions. Or, what about a big thrust in sustainability—the underlying science of sustaining agricultural productivity as we think about water shortages and climate change? I mean really big issues and we absolutely failed. I mean that department was not capable of, excuse the cliché, thinking outside the box—doing something really big and bold and distinctive. Now, in hindsight, I wished I had asked for a program in the plant sciences. Something interdisciplinary that couldn’t be stonewalled by the people in a department. At the time, I thought it was such a spectacular gift that it was an almost no-brainer that we do something bold and we didn’t.
SCARPINO: While you served as president at Iowa State or even at Purdue, were there ever any challenges to your leadership that caused you to have to defend your style or your decisions?
JISCHKE: Oh, I think the sale of the television station was such an example where I think there were people on the faculty who thought that I was not representing the interests of the university properly. That I had caved in, as it were, to the Board of Regents, and that I was a party to a cabal and didn’t like what I was doing. There were serious arguments among some about the emphasis of the fundraising and the emphasis on economic development and that we weren’t paying proper attention to undergraduate education and I argued with them. I mean I argued based on what I thought I was doing. I argued with them based on the facts and we had a disagreement. There were some who thought I was too argumentative and I like to think that I listen well. I may be naïve and self servicing but I think I do. But I do also know that I’m not afraid to take on an issue on which I feel strongly and think I understand the facts. One of the things I have learned as a leader over the years is while I think effective leaders give people the opportunity to weigh in on important issues that affect them that there’s an open dialogue and openness, I have no illusions about coming to agreement. That on some issues there will ultimately not be agreement and that that is not a reason for inaction. There are times when you make decisions even in the face of opposition. You have to do it selectively. You can burn up a lot of capital in the process but effective leaders sometimes have to make decisions that those affected by the decisions don’t like. There was a sense on the Board of Regents at Iowa State that the university had kind of lost its way and had lost its competitive edge, that it was trying to be too many different things to too many different people. So part of the agenda that the board had for me was to reassert excellence in areas for which Iowa State was not just well known but for which the State of Iowa utterly depended on Iowa State. Agriculture would be one example. Engineering would be another one. Veterinary medicine would be a third. So, the regents as the legitimate representatives of the people of Iowa, appointed by the governor—I mean these were, they governed—had an agenda for the institution that I was brought in to pursue and frankly agreed with. There were those who were not in engineering, agriculture, veterinary medicine, science, particularly in the liberal arts, who objected to this reassertion of the importance of these areas. It boiled down to tough decisions about budget allocations and who got the money and for whom did we raise money and what kind of projects did we pursue. There were people who disagreed with that and so they challenged me on it but there was never a question of my being deposed if you will or injured by it. The regents were very happy with me and didn’t want me to leave but that was part of the struggle there. There wasn’t, at Iowa State, the same consensus within the university community and the faculty in particular about the direction of the university that there has been at Purdue. That’s a difference.
SCARPINO: You inherited a consensus here that—or the focus?
JISCHKE: It was here. The trustees had done a very good role in preparing the institution and I think as I became older and more mature as a leader I was probably more effective in building the consensus than I had been when I was younger. But this whole question of is there agreement on the basic direction of the university? There was a basic disagreement in Iowa, in particular in the liberal arts side of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
SCARPINO: In August of 2000 you made another career move.
SCARPINO: Accepting the presidency of Purdue University where you replaced Steven Beering who had served for a number of years. What caused you to move or decide to move from Iowa State to Purdue?
JISCHKE: A couple of things and later I recognized a third one. First, the trustees of Purdue aggressively recruited me. I told them no three or four times and they still came back and I liked their persistence. I liked the idea of taking Purdue to the next level. Purdue is a very fine university with an excellent reputation and yet to have a governing board say—we’d like it to be better. I liked that kind of thinking. It appeals to me. They wanted a strategic plan. I like strategic planning. They needed more fundraising. I’m a good fundraiser. So it was a good fit for me. Second, the environment in Iowa had changed. A new governor had been elected the year before.
SCARPINO: What was the governor’s name?
JISCHKE: Tom Vilsack. After a year, a little more than a year, I concluded he would not support higher education. I concluded he was not very interested in Iowa State in particular and that it would be quite difficult to make progress at Iowa State. That realization about the political environment in Iowa became clear to me early in 2000, January or February. There was a specific incident that really drove it home. I had been working in the legislature to get a new building for our business college. The Board of Regents had approved the project and the request. It went from them to the governor and the legislature and the governor did not recommend it but with a lot of work with alumni friends and others I got it into the legislature, into their budget, and it was ultimately approved and because it was part of a large budget package the governor had to sign it. It was a challenge grant. The state put up ten million and I had to raise ten million privately which I had already done. So I was ready. My wife and I and our kids were in Kansas City at the Big Eight basketball tournament. This is around March and I got a call from the chairman of the Board of Trustees—Board of Regents, excuse me, in Iowa, saying that the governor was very angry that I had successfully lobbied for this new building and he wanted me to stop. I said to the chairman, I said—but the Board of Regents approved that project and my understanding is we are allowed to lobby for anything you approve. But the governor is angry. So I thanked him for the phone call and I hung up and I turned to my wife and I said—maybe the job at Purdue is more attractive. Now, so part of it was the environment in Iowa and part of it was the appeal of the trustees and of Purdue. Thirdly, and this became clear to me after I came to Purdue that after almost ten years at Iowa State which is the longest I’ve ever held a job. I typically made moves every five years. I was department head for five years, I was dean for five years, I was chancellor for five years; Iowa State almost ten. I was ready for something new and I didn’t fully appreciate it while I was in Iowa that I’d done a lot of good things but I was at a point where it was becoming a little repetitious. It was becoming not as much fun and I became more conscious once I got here in Indiana and found how much I was enjoying the new job.
SCARPINO: So you really like the challenge of a new opportunity and…
JISCHKE: Yeah, exactly, exactly. The Purdue experience is probably the best job I’ve had, certainly as a president.
SCARPINO: When you took this job did you think in your own mind that this would be the capstone to a career as an administrator?
JISCHKE: Yeah. Yeah, I actually thought initially I was going to retire in Iowa.
SCARPINO: How old were you when you took this job? I mean I can go back and figure it out but…
JISCHKE: I was sixty.
JISCHKE: Fifty-nine going on sixty within a month if I remember correctly. So essentially sixty and yeah, I actually didn’t think I would take another job in higher ed but I took it and initially the board asked for a five-year commitment. I gave it to them and two years into it we renegotiated it for another two to make it a total of seven years which fit nicely at several levels. We had a capital campaign going that ended June 30th of this year. We had a strategic plan that initially had five and we made it a six year time horizon. It took us a year to develop it. So that ended on June 30, 2007. Third, I turned sixty-six on August 7th of 2007 and the policy of the board of the university is that administrators retire before they reach their sixty-sixth birthday. You can’t be reappointed after you turn sixty-five and while the board was quite willing to waive that for me I had, after twenty-three years, done enough and I’m a believer in mandatory retirement policies. I think people eventually run out of gas or energy or interest. I mean there’s a time for all things. For all things there’s a season and I think that’s true for university leadership. If you don’t recognize that you run an enormous risk that you stay too long until you’re doing it badly and then you’re forced out and there’s enough ego and sense of self. I didn’t want to have to leave. I’ve never had to leave a job. It’s always been under my terms. Second, I also think that you can back the place up and young people need opportunities. I mean that’s what a university is all about. They educate students, they graduate, they go on. I think similarly in leadership positions you’ve got to create opportunities for others. That’s one of the major responsibilities of a leader is the succession idea. This idea of giving others an opportunity including an opportunity at the job you have and at least for me there is a point at which it starts to get a little, routine is the wrong word, but there is some repetition and the newness wears off. You’ve tried your ideas. It’s time to do something else and Patty and I have been planning this for a long time. We pretty much knew this was the time to do it.
SCARPINO: When you got to Purdue and you replaced Steven Beering who I believe had been the head of the university for seventeen years.
JISCHKE: Right. A long time.
SCARPINO: Were there any leadership challenges to replacing somebody who had been here that long?
JISCHKE: Not any serious ones. The board had done a spectacular job of preparing the community for somebody like me. I mean they talked about next level and about strategic planning and change. So there was a sense at the university that whoever the new person was they were going to come in with this kind of agenda. Second, the most thoughtful people at the university, the board, senior faculty, alums, really had the sense that it was time for a change. They all admired Steve and thought highly of him but it was time. The environment at Purdue, the needs of Purdue, the needs of the State of Indiana, the preparation of the trustees, all played to what I can do well. So it was a really wonderful match. The only initial challenge I had is I think my predecessor struggled with stepping down. I think it was hard on him. I don’t think he wanted to. So that was initially a little awkward but frankly we got through that without much trouble.
SCARPINO: How did you go about organizing your administration and establishing yourself as the leader here?
JISCHKE: Well I was appointed, I want to say in April to take over in early August. So after I was appointed and had my press conference and uttered the generalities, the banalities that all new presidents do. Upward and onward, all of that stuff.
SCARPINO: Like being a first round pick in a draft. (laughter)
JISCHKE: Yeah, exactly, exactly. There was about a three or four month period and I scheduled a series of visits to Purdue, typically a couple, three days. And I interviewed everybody who reports to the president. I interviewed all the deans. I interviewed the leaders of the faculty and staff groups and I would typically ask them two or three questions. One, what do you think the most important issues facing the university are? Second, do you have any personal plans that I ought to know about? Are you going to resign and go somewhere else? Third, are there any issues that I need to pay attention to right now? What do you think I ought to focus on in my first year? I took a lot of notes. I was also trying to assess these people and whether they thought this way. How good were their answers? Did they make sense in terms of what I already knew? Second, I tried to establish an agenda for that first year, well, for the first three months of the first year. Shared it with the board. I got their ideas so that we were all singing from the same sheet of music. Third, I scheduled in the first, I can’t remember if it was 30 days or 60 days or 90 days but I just packed it with stuff to do: speak to the student government, speak to the faculty senate, visit major donors. Very early on I had a retreat, one day retreat, with all the people who reported to me and were on the cabinet. We went around the table and I asked people again—what do you think the big issues are? I told them what my agenda was. This is what I intended to accomplish in these first few months. So I made it quite clear that I had a game plan and that while I was eager, willing, open to suggestions and changes and I made some, ultimately this was not just my agenda this was the leadership agenda. The unspoken message being—get on board. They overwhelmingly did. One exception, who was gone after six months. The other thing that I did, and this was luck—there were a large number of open positions. The Chief Academic Officer had announced he wanted to retire and I begged him to stay until I could find a replacement. So the Provost position was open. The Chief Development Officer was open. Five or six of the deanships were open. So we had a lot of vacant positions that with one exception I didn’t have to dismiss anybody. So there wasn’t blood being spilled. But it gave me a chance to shape the leadership team because everybody who came in came in understanding what we were trying to accomplish.
SCARPINO: Did you pick your deans internally or did you bring them in from the outside?
JISCHKE: Oh, every search was a national search. I remember the first search we launched was the provost search and I appointed a committee with a lot of input and we had our first meeting. I said—this is a national search. I want you to get the best person. If the best person lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, so be it and if they live in Berkeley, California, so be it as well. One of the committee members puts his hand up and says—Dr. Jischke, Purdue has a reputation for appointing insiders. How can we convince people that you are serious that this is an open, national search? To which I said something like—one, I mean what I say and if anybody doubts me, have them call me and by God we appointed the dean of Arts and Sciences from the University of Kansas and a woman. First woman in the history of the university to be Chief Academic Officer.
SCARPINO: What was her name?
JISCHKE: Sally Mason. She’s now President of the University of Iowa. So, broke another mold. These searches weren’t wired for internal people and we were prepared to bring in a more diverse leadership team. So all of those were aspects of that initial leadership and then I started visiting everybody. One of the things I’ve done everywhere I’ve been is I visit every college or school for a full day once a year. First one was Agriculture and I had an open forum. That’s part of these things. Nearly four hundred people showed up to hear the new guy. Now Agriculture thought they were first because they were the most important college. I pointed out to them later that they were first…
SCARPINO: It’s an A. (laughter)
JISCHKE: …in the alphabet. Exactly. So I visited with every school. I started my community visits. I did a radio show. On the air, open phone, call in and ask the president questions. Scared the daylights out of the public relations people and, you know, it wasn’t scripted but it all worked. So a lot of emphasis on communication and repeating, repeating, repeating, the basic message. We wanted to get to the next level in a way that made Indiana better. We were going to do it through a strategic plan and we were going to increase the financial resource base of the university.
SCARPINO: I want to ask you about your strategic plan but there are a couple of things that I noted that happened quite quickly after you assumed the presidency. November of 2000, Purdue launched the Indiana Resident Top Scholars Program.
JISCHKE: That’s right.
SCARPINO: Was that your idea?
JISCHKE: The details of it came from within the administration but the request came from the board. The board said we want a scholarship program to go after high ability students.
SCARPINO: So this was an attempt to really raise the…
JISCHKE: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. One of the things that characterized the seven years at Purdue was a fabulous relationship with the Board of Trustees—all Purdue grads, brilliantly led by Tim McGinley. He’s just a wonderful human being and a great board chair and they were very engaged. That’s part of what attracted me to Purdue. They knew what was going on at the university. They were amazingly well informed. In the interview process I asked them lots of different questions and I asked the same question in different ways of different people and I got back the same message. So they were together from what they wanted to accomplish and as a result it’s the best board I’ve worked with. Quite unified. Quite supportive. In the seven years I was president I never lost a vote with the board and they were all unanimous except one and it was nine to one. So this wasn’t a rubber stamp board, they knew what was going on, but the communication was fantastic. Very candid, very open, very honest. I mean it’s one of the things I tell young people who want to become university presidents or for that matter presidents of organizations with boards. Pay attention to the board and the fundamental issue is trust and communication. No surprises. People understand what they’re trying to accomplish and a commitment to the enterprise not to, sort of, personal or individual agendas. The board here has been fantastic.
SCARPINO: In August of 2001 you established or launched the Office of Engagement.
SCARPINO: What was its mission and how did that fit in with where you wanted the university to go?
JISCHKE: Well, back to fundamentals. Take it to the next level in a way that has an impact in the state of Indiana. I’m nationally known as a proponent of engagement. I wrote the engagement report for the Kellogg Commission and won the first Peter Macgraw [Macgrath] Award for Engagement so that’s part of what I have done as a university president.
SCARPINO: That’s when you served on the Kellogg Commission on the future of state and land-grant universities?
JISCHKE: Right. Exactly. I knew here at Purdue that the top item in engagement was economic development but I was also very interested in K-12 because frankly that’s one of the weak links of this state is K-12 system is not performing at a level that it should. So I wanted to do something at a university level that went beyond what was going on individually in schools and colleges like extension in agriculture. So I established the Office of Engagement. Put some money in it and talked about it and took one of the deans, Don Gentry, who was Dean of Technology and appointed him the first Vice Provost for Engagement. Subsequently after he stepped down Vic Lechtenberg did it. Vic was Dean of Agriculture, one of the premier deanships of the university. So we gave it a higher prominence and began to launch programs related to economic development, related to K-12 education, that garnered a lot of attention and unleashed an interesting level of energy at the university. I don’t want to tell you that everybody at Purdue likes engagement. I’m sure there are those who are prepared to tolerate the president’s interest in this. But there are some for whom this was quite liberating and very exciting and we started a number of efforts, expanded the research park, added research parks and technology parks, the Science Bound program in Indianapolis—all engagement activities.
SCARPINO: Science Bound related to K through 12?
JISCHKE: Yeah. It gave a lot of energy to Purdue and was part of this larger connecting of the university to the state of Indiana. One of the things I heard when I went around the state asking how can we make Purdue better and one of the comments was make it easier to interact with Purdue. It’s hard. It’s a very large complex organization. I, the mayor of Kokomo, or Anderson or wherever—I don’t know how Purdue is organized—how do I find somebody? I had one phone number—the Office of Engagement. So it was all part of a positioning of the university and part of reinforcing this basic agenda that I was brought here to carry out.
SCARPINO: September of 2001, the university announced plans for Discovery Park.
JISCHKE: Yep. Lilly Endowment.
SCARPINO: Right, which you already mentioned but again, that was a—you described that as a target of opportunity.
JISCHKE: The target of—the background was it was—one of the early conclusions I came to is that Purdue’s research program was relatively small for the size of the university and second, it was very weak when it came to interdisciplinary activities. There were very few centers. No money in it. So I knew that we had to grow the research program. We had to grow the interdisciplinary part of the research program. So that was on my mind from the get go. That kind of strategic thinking then made it possible for me to shape the Lilly Endowment proposal and then the opportunity came up. So I was ready to go and once the Lilly Endowment started the conversation I was already fundraising to get matching money so that on the one hand I was telling donors if you’ll make a commitment I’m hoping I can get the Lilly Endowment to buy in. I’m also telling the Lilly Endowment if you give us this money I’ll match it. So, this was very much part of this effort to move the strategic thinking forward.
SCARPINO: Did you get 100 million to get it going?
JISCHKE: Oh, initially they gave us 25 million, 26 million and I had already raised, gosh, I want to say 60 for the nanotechnology center in particular. So I had 25 plus 60, I had like 85 and I’d have to go back and read the proposal. I can’t remember whether I promised them three to one or four to one or five to one but I promised them a significant leveraging and I had most of it there if they came through.
SCARPINO: In November of 2001, just a little over a year after you became president, the trustees adopted a five-year strategic plan. Could you talk a little bit about the goals of that plan?
JISCHKE: Yeah. That there would be a strategic plan was a foregone conclusion when I was appointed.
JISCHKE: That was a given. So initially the trick was to gear up for it. We started a search for a director of strategic planning. Hired a guy named Rab Mukerjea to do that. Then appointed a committee. They got started. Then we hired a provost and the provost became chair of that committee in time for her to play a role in shaping a final report to me that then I sent on to the trustees in November.
SCARPINO: What kind of a role did you play in shaping that plan?
JISCHKE: I appointed the committee. The staffing of it by Mukerjea. He reported to me. So I was constantly being made aware of what was going on and when the report was, first draft was written, I reviewed it and made some changes that got built into it. So I played a role but I didn’t write the thing. It reflected the taskforce and then we did open forums where we had hundreds of people show up to talk about this and we made changes in the strategic plan based on it. But I had direct input and in particular, I was the source of one of the major goals which was to add 300 new faculty positions. The plan itself had seven goals. First, improve the learning environment and the key thing there was the 300 new faculty positions. It would take us from roughly 1800 to 2100 faculty. Second, double the size of the research program. Discovery Park plays a key role in that. Third, a more engaged university. Office of Engagement, more engagement activities. Fourth, a substantial enhancement in the infrastructure of the university, largely facilities, but it also included upgrading of the computer systems. We ended up spending over a billion dollars over seven years on that. Fifth, more diverse university. Record numbers of minority students, minority female faculty, much more diverse Purdue. Sixth, more competitive faculty salaries. We enhanced the competitiveness of faculty salaries. We did not achieve the objective. The slow down in state funding crippled that. Then, the last seventh goal, enhancing student financial aid. We increased financial aid by about 70%. Back to land-grant access and opportunity. Launched the Science Bound program; a program called the Opportunity Awards.
SCARPINO: Opportunity awards for students who have intelligence but need.
JISCHKE: Exactly. High need, high need. So those were the seven goals of the strategic plan and it worked. We reported every year to the board. We had metrics. We didn’t measure everything that moves but we measured most things. So we had a pretty complete picture of the university and while in the middle of the strategic plan we did what we call mid-course corrections. We adjusted the strategic plan. We pretty much accomplished it all. One of the most distinctive aspects of our strategic plan is in addition to these goals and the metrics that go with them, we also developed a financial plan to go with it. So when we launched the strategic plan, we knew in broad terms where the money would come from. It led to a $1.3 billion capital campaign that ultimately raised 1.7 billion. It led to an increase of tuition, a thousand dollar increase on every student that generated nearly 40 million bucks that helped fund some of these initiatives. It led to a goal for enhanced sponsored programs, largely research by faculty. It led to reallocations. We reallocated roughly 2% of our budget every year from lower priorities to strategic plan priorities and what’s the other one that we, we paid a lot more attention to alternative sources of income, auxiliary enterprises, to make sure they were covering their fully loaded costs.
SCARPINO: Now was this because the state legislature became increasingly…
JISCHKE: Well, that was one of the…
SCARPINO: …reluctant to fund higher education?
JISCHKE: One of the assumptions in our strategic plan was that the state would provide inflationary adjustments only. Anything beyond that would be a targeted specific investment for specific purpose. That turned out to be rather prescient. Initially the state kept up with inflation but there was a three or four year period where they didn’t and we, nonetheless, were able to accomplish most of our goals because, frankly, the plan did not rely very much on state funding. I think that was a really smart thing that we did. We really pegged it. We really understood what the financial environment was that we were in. So we made all of this progress at a time when state funding was basically flat. If you look over the seven year period I was president, state funding was essentially flat. Everything else went up at very substantial rates and we increased the overall financial base of the university by 70%. Went from one billion to over 1.7 billion in seven years.
Scarpino; Now, by financial base, you’re talking about the endowments that the university has or just cash?
JISCHKE: The total operating budget. The endowment similarly went up. But the total operating budget for all of Purdue went from about one billion to over 1.7 billion. Seventy percent increase in seven years. There are very few public universities in the country that can say that and the fact that we did it with flat state funding makes it almost miraculous.
SCARPINO: In September of 2002, Purdue and a partnership with the Purdue Research Foundation, the City of West Lafayette, comes up with 2.2 or a commitment of $2.2 billion to develop 50 acres in Purdue Research Park?
JISCHKE: Two point two million, not billion.
SCARPINO: Oh, alright.
JISCHKE: Yeah. One element of our efforts to play a larger role in economic development was to grow the Purdue Research Park which is a park that has today about 140 companies, about 3,000 employees. Most of the companies are technology companies. Most of them come from Purdue technology. So that expansion was related to the Purdue Research Park here in West Lafayette. Second, we developed research or technology parks in Merrillville, Indianapolis, and New Albany which is a nationally pioneering effort. There aren’t many universities that have satellite…
SCARPINO: Research parks…
JISCHKE: …research parks. Third, we partnered with the certified technology parks all around the state. So we tried to not only grow what we were doing here locally but to have an impact all over Indiana. It was all part of this basic vision—make Indiana a better place.
SCARPINO: In the time we have left I want to ask you a few, the last few of our leadership questions…
JISCHKE: Sure, please…
SCARPINO: …and then ask you about leaving the presidency and so on. But just for the record I’m going to ask you the last few of the Tobias Center standard leadership questions. How would you characterize your concept of leadership? What do you think constitutes leadership?
JISCHKE: I think, at its core, leadership is about accomplishing important objectives and organizing people, groups, to do that. Effective leaders have a range of talents, communication skills. The best of them have this capacity to see beyond today to develop a vision. They have the tools of strategy of working with people, interpersonal skills. I think the best leaders have energy, personal energy. They work hard at it. I think that’s one of the things that distinguishes me. I work hard and bring a lot of energy to what I do and some passion. I think at its core it’s about advancing society, at least for me. The opportunity to lead a great university that educates students that plays a role for progress and good in a society is an absolutely splendid thing and a chance to be a catalyst for that, to help lead it, is at its core a noble thing. For me personally, I kind of like the challenges that go with it.
SCARPINO: That’s a word you use a lot—challenges.
JISCHKE: Yeah. It takes energy. It takes insight. It, at times, takes courage. It takes all the talents I have. I like to tell students that this kind of leadership opportunity is the most amazing combination of interesting work, challenging work. I mean it’s hard and you’ve got to devote yourself to it. It is enormously rewarding and it’s important. I tell students that from my perspective if you can figure out how to gain that opportunity to do things that are interesting, challenging, rewarding, and important, you will lead a rich and satisfying life. For me, that combination has led to leadership. Leadership is a means to an end not just an end in itself. I mean, I’m one of those that believes if you don’t accomplish something in a leadership position there’s no point in having it.
SCARPINO: How would you characterize your style of leadership?
JISCHKE: Proactive. High energy. Pretty demanding. I’m pretty intense, pretty serious. I like to think I can laugh but I have no doubt that I’m pretty serious about what I do. I take it seriously and I put a lot of focus on what I do. I think I’m an ethical leader. I think the most important quality leaders have is trust, that people trust them, and that has its roots in ethical behavior. Proud of that but it’s partly who I am. I’m just not capable of deliberate lies. I mean I can avoid questions but it’s just not in me to lie and I think that leads me to be trusted by people. I think I’ve behaved honorably and I think now over a long time as a leader I’ve also been able to develop other people—initially students, subsequently colleagues. I mean I have, I just learned the other day that one of my PhD students became a dean of engineering and he had a chance to watch me as an administrator. One of my colleagues is now a university president. I take a lot of pride in that development of people. Every place I’ve been president I’ve had a president’s or chancellor’s leadership class for freshmen to emphasize the development of leadership among young people. So I feel like I have not only been a relatively effective leader, I’ve helped develop other leaders. Passed the gift on.
SCARPINO: What do you think has worked well about your concept and style of leadership for you?
JISCHKE: Well, I think you get more things done if you work hard and bring energy. I mean there’s a sort of pace. Second, I think this idea of being proactive or strategic or trying to think ahead, works. It’s worked for me and I think it’s part of what effective leaders do. They sort of see beyond the immediate and it’s a skill, a talent, that you can develop through practice. It’s never precise. It’s not about predicting the future. It’s about trying to shape it and being ready to adapt to whatever it is. I think I do that well. I think this issue of trust, honesty, integrity, ultimately has served me very, very well.
SCARPINO: Is there anything about your concept or style of leadership that hasn’t worked well for you?
JISCHKE: I have occasionally wondered whether I was naïve and idealistic. My first presidency was an interim presidency at the University of Oklahoma for a year and I did some awfully naïve things that were based on an assumption that everyone was playing honestly. That what people said is what they meant. Their interests were honorable and very much about purposes of the university. It’s a kind of idealistic view of things and I learned some hard lessons. Although I think I’m a lot more mature today and in that sense a bit savvier and less naïve, I still err on the side of optimism. I still err on the side of thinking the best of people. I had a relatively well known guy in Indiana, who you probably know, John Mutz…
JISCHKE: …once say to me don’t ever lose your idealism.
SCARPINO: I interviewed Mr. Mutz for six hours. He was our first.
JISCHKE: Yeah, and I think John saw in me this kind of idealism. I think he saw it from the perspective of my view about the role of education in economic development, in my maybe idealistic view that Indiana can change and become more than it is. But his comment to me is—don’t lose it and that was a comment made in the last three or four years. So, I don’t think I’ve lost it all.
SCARPINO: Do you think you helped Indiana change?
JISCHKE: Yeah, I do. I feel very good about what I’ve accomplished at Purdue and I feel very good about what I have accomplished through Purdue for Indiana. I think it’s been a great run as I like to say to people and I think I made a difference and enjoyed myself along the way. I’ve gotten an enormous amount of gratitude expressed to me in the last year or so. It happened to me last night. I was a basketball game. It was the first game of the year. Sitting, watching…
SCARPINO: Purdue basketball.
JISCHKE: …Purdue beat the Bethune-Cookman. The fellow who was sitting next to me, who I don’t know, said—are you Dr. Jischke? I said yes and he said, he stuck out his hand and shook my hand and he said—thanks for all you’ve done for Purdue and for Indiana. So, I’ve had that happen to me. So I feel that I actually did make a difference.
SCARPINO: Well, there’s a street out here named after you.
JISCHKE: That’s right. That’s right.
SCARPINO: It used to be Intramural Boulevard and now it’s Jischke.
SCARPINO: How do feel when you drive under that sign?
JISCHKE: Absolutely stunned. I mean I think I said at the beginning of this interview that I come from pretty ordinary circumstances. I mean I’m the first person in my family—it’s been in this country for well over a century—first person in my family to have a bachelor’s degree, a college education. Certainly the first person with a PhD and to end up president of some great universities, with buildings named after you and streets named after you, is utterly amazing. There are times that I think it’s quite improbable and quite lucky and then there are times I think maybe it’s the result of a lot of hard work and I conclude that it’s probably both. Hard work, talent, but also a little bit of luck along the way. Spectacular wife, very supportive parents, I mean great teachers. This all isn’t, I mean this doesn’t happen in isolation. But when I step back I’m stunned and very grateful.
SCARPINO: Do you see a distinction between leadership and management?
SCARPINO: What do you think the distinctions are?
JISCHKE: The cliché is managers do things right, leaders do the right thing. Leadership carries with it the idea of setting a direction, of inspiring, of enabling groups to accomplish things and at least at its most profound level, leadership is both about the things—what is it we will try to accomplish, and second, enabling that to happen. Management pretty much takes for granted what’s to be accomplished and it’s much more about organization and accounting and things that are very important but lack this vision component, typically. This notion of trying to ask carefully what is it we want to, what are our basic purposes. What’s the vision of this activity? Well I think really superb management gets very close to that vision because underlying great management is an understanding of people, of empowering people. I mean there are elements of management that kind of touch up against leadership. But leadership takes it to a different level. It takes it to a level of vision, of inspiration, of direction, ultimately of goals and purposes and values. Management, while not value independent, typically accepts the values, accepts the objectives. Leadership is about articulating and establishing them. Great leaders, in my view, have good management skills. Good managers are not necessarily great leaders.
SCARPINO: Do great leaders have a knack for picking good managers?
JISCHKE: Absolutely. I mean, you could make the case that the single most important thing that great managers do is picking people. Great leaders also do the same thing but more. They not only pick great people, they set a direction for those great people and they create an environment where those people can achieve their greatness.
SCARPINO: Some of the scholarship that relates to the field of leadership talks about leadership and understanding of leadership being forged in a crisis or a key event. Were there any events or crises in your life that helped to forge your understanding of leadership?
JISCHKE: I don’t know if—there were a lot of experiences that I’ve had. I mentioned the one about the fellow winning the bet and hauling the beef into the cooler. The White House Fellowship. I was president of my senior class in college. I was officer of the residence hall I lived in at MIT. So, I’ve had a lot of those experiences that have shaped me. Crises, not too many, but a few. The fact that I was Interim President of Oklahoma and not the permanent president was a great disappointment. I’m not sure it rises to crisis. But I learned a lot in that disappointment. I learned something in the Carrie Chapman Catt experience and the sale of the television station at Iowa State. But I don’t, I haven’t had, in my view, what I thought were crises that sort of forged-in-the-heat-of-battle kind of. I’ve worked hard. I think I’ve been relatively thoughtful and I’ve tried to always learn and grow. That’s another aspect of my leadership. I’ve never, to this day, thought I had it all figured out and I continue to educate myself. I continue to learn. I take short courses, workshops, seminars. I read outside of my background. There’s three books over there, four books, on early childhood education that I’m interested in. I haven’t read an early childhood education book ever before but I’m now interested in it. So, I’ve learned. But I don’t know that I could point to a crisis in which that made, you know, that was a defining experience.
SCARPINO: Let me see if I can frame this last question in a way that is going to come out right. Do you think that it’s, thinking about leaders and leadership, do you think it’s possible that a person can be a great leader while pursuing goals or outcomes of questionable utility or morality? Were Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin leaders?
JISCHKE: It might be a definitional question. If you think leadership is about organizing groups to accomplish objectives then the Hitlers of the world are leaders and I accept that. But the element of leadership that I add that disqualifies him is—you ultimately have to add a value judgment about what’s to be accomplished. If the ultimate goal is an evil one and immoral one then I reject that as the ultimate test of leadership. I mean, leadership is not just about accomplishing things. It’s about accomplishing important or noble or valuable things. So there’s a value side to all of this that ultimately has to be faced. So it’s a little bit of a definitional question. Do you add the issue of values or morality to the results of the leadership activity? If you do, then these people don’t quality. I actually, in talking to students about leadership, give them the first definition without the value side of it and make the point that Hitler’s the classic example in the western world. But others qualify as leaders by that measure. Chainsaw Al Dunlap qualifies and so on. But I add to them that if that’s your measure of leadership then you have to accept this potential that it can be used for absolutely awful ends. That is, talents that are misused or skills, abilities and that’s true about a lot of things in the world. So ultimately the human measure of leadership has to confront the question of value and that’s where, I think, it’s one of the reasons trust is central to leadership. Most leaders either have a sufficient amount of power, authority, or are involved in such complex activities that it’s very difficult for those who are led or those who empower that leadership to hold them accountable at every step, at every detail, and they ultimately have to take a leap of faith. They have to trust that that person will use that authority or that power or that complexity, that lack of transparency, in an honorable or trustworthy way and I think over time most of us come to that conclusion. When you appoint a new president of the university, how do you know whether they’ll steal things or appoint cronies or not hold people accountable? You don’t. You absolutely don’t and I think that’s become a kind of common sense measure and it tells me that overwhelmingly people do include the issue of morality or honesty or integrity. They add values to the definition of leadership.
SCARPINO: As you were approaching the end of your tenure at Purdue, the honors just began to rain in and I’ll mention a few for the record here. Inside Indiana Business and Indy Men’s Magazine named you as one of Indiana’s Keepers which are people who made a difference and should be kept in the state. You were named Chairman of the Association of American Universities which represents the country’s big research universities; Indiana Chamber of Commerce chose you as Volunteer of the Year; and finally, in March of 2006, President George W. Bush appointed you to a seat on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology [PCAST]. Now in that last position were you able to leverage that position to the benefit of the university or the State of Indiana?
JISCHKE: I don’t know is the real answer to that. I should tell you that I didn’t take it for that purpose.
JISCHKE: I took it to serve the country and I think in that sense I’ve accomplished something. I helped shape a report on alternative energy which is an important issue for the country. Was in the Oval Office with the president and many of his top advisors. There were just five or six of us from PCAST and so I feel like I was serving the country’s interest. Whether it will narrowly benefit Indiana, I don’t know. That wasn’t the purpose of it. All of those recognitions were absolutely wonderful. I think I’m at a stage of my life where I do these things, like the presidency at Purdue, not to gain the recognition or the honors. I’ve gotten a lot of them in my life. I really enjoy the work and the opportunity to make a difference. I’m back to interesting, challenging, rewarding, important. Recognition is not part of that. Having said that it is, I’m human and it’s really nice to know that others appreciate what you’ve done and recognize it and are willing to say thank you. I would add one other; quickly add one other, comment. In an organization as complex as Purdue University I’ve got thousands of colleagues that contribute to this and I’ve never been disillusioned that I’m the sole actor and a lot of this recognition is really recognition of a whole team of people, some of whom are employees of the university and some of whom are not.
SCARPINO: And some of them were your team that you put into place.
JISCHKE: My family, the trustees, as well as obvious colleagues— vice presidents, provosts, deans, etc. I take it as much a recognition of all of us together as me personally. I understand that I’ve played a role and I’m proud of it and I know I’ve made a difference but it’s a recognition of the efforts of a lot of people and it’s one of the things I think effective leaders do is they don’t lose sight of the team. They take time to recognize others, support them, thank them. It’s a quality of effective leaders. If you ever start taking people for granted or worse, abuse them, that you’re in trouble.
SCARPINO: Do you think that you are a good team builder?
JISCHKE: I think so. I think so.
SCARPINO: August 4th, 2006, you announced that you would be leaving the presidency of Purdue at the end of that academic year. But I note that you had been on the board of directors of something called the Wabash National Corporation since 2004 which is one of the leading manufacturers of truck trailers, composite trailers.
SCARPINO: What took you from Purdue to the Wabash National Corporation?
JISCHKE: Well, I was the president of Purdue at the time they invited me on to the board. The company was undergoing a transition of leadership and they wanted to add new people to the board and Wabash is one of the leading employers here in the greater Lafayette area and so I thought it would be a good thing to help an important company in the area. Second, I enjoy that kind of activity, being a board member, and so I joined in 2002. I remained on the board. I’m now serving as chairman of it which is a…
SCARPINO: Chairman of the Board?
JISCHKE: Yeah, an interesting responsibility but I serve on, right now, three corporate boards Wabash being one of them.
SCARPINO: What are the other two?
JISCHKE: Duke Realty and Vectran Corporation. I enjoy doing that. I enjoy the—it’s a different kind of leadership challenge. It’s a more collective leadership. The board acts only as a group but some of the issues of what are we here to accomplish, how do we do it, how do we measure it, on behalf of shareholders, is something I just enjoy that kind of activity.
SCARPINO: The time that you’ve given me is about up but I want to ask you one more question.
SCARPINO: As you think back over the four hours we’ve now spent together and the interview that we’ve had, is there anything that you wished I would have asked you that I didn’t or that I should have asked you or just didn’t have the insight to ask? Is there anything you’d like to add?
JISCHKE: I’ve talked a lot about strategic planning for Purdue, Iowa State, organizations. I’m a believer that that process works for individuals and I try to encourage students in particular, but people in general, to try to think strategically for themselves, to think over the long run. Why are you here? What are you trying to accomplish? What measures do you use to know whether you’re doing it or not? And I hope that it always includes the issue of leadership because, at least in our society in this democracy we have here in the United States, it hinges for its success, on lots of people exercising leadership and often in a voluntary way. Many of our most vital organizations are voluntary organizations—churches, youth serving organizations, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, United Way, in some real sense, universities. No student has to come here. They do it voluntarily. No faculty member has to be here. They do it voluntarily. All of these activities that involve more than one person have a leadership element in them. So I hope as young people and those not so young, think about themselves and their futures, they’ll think strategically and include leadership. I try to do that myself. You know, what are you going to do when you grow up kind of question. I even ask that now. What am I going to do with my life? I think it’s a good way to think. I think you raise the likelihood that you will have a satisfying life and you will raise the likelihood that you will have a meaningful life. One of the people I admire enormously is George Washington Carver, an amazing American, and Carver once said—it’s simply service that measures success. So leadership that has an element of service in it is the ultimate test of success in life. Another amazing African American, I think it’s Booker T. Washington who headed Tuskegee where Carver was on the faculty, said if you want to lift up yourself lift up somebody else. This idea of service as the ultimate definition of a rich and rewarding life I think is a powerful idea and leadership as a means to that is very powerful. It gets back to our comments about morality and values. If ultimately the leadership is in the interest of others, serving, that may be the ultimate accomplishment and I think individuals are much more likely to get there, to have that sense of accomplishment, if they think a little longer term, a little more strategically about them, about themselves. Then the last comment that you haven’t asked about is that strategy also includes understanding when it’s time to let somebody else lead. The issue of transition of succession. It’s an important question not only for organizations but for individuals. No one can lead forever, at least in a specific leadership capacity. It almost certainly will undermine the long term health and sustainability of the organization. To understand yourself well enough to know when that’s the right thing to do is something I’ve been wrestling with for the last few years as I thought about my own transition and I’ve watched a number of other people do it and I would tell you I think a lot of people really struggle because leadership, at least of large organizations, brings with it attention, notoriety, stature, money. I mean there’s lots of rewards of effective leadership and the notion of giving it up which may be ultimately confronting one’s mortality is, I think, an interesting human dilemma. And I’m back to strategic thinking again. What’s the strategy post-leadership or are you going to move on to a new leadership opportunity. There are examples in the public sector of people who have done it very well and others who haven’t. I mean to me one of the interesting examples is Carter, President Carter, who I think a lot of people feel may have been better at former-president than president. I mean I’m not going to make a value judgment but he’s an interesting example of someone who has quite deliberately gone down a path of leadership after what some might characterize as the ultimate leadership challenge in our country—being president. So this issue of transition from leadership I think is an important one and my personal experience, not only in doing it myself but watching others, is that it requires thought and self-awareness, self-understanding.
SCARPINO: I thank you very much…
JISCHKE: Thank you.
SCARPINO: for taking the time to sit with me for two…
[end of second interview]