Alums come back to give back
By BRIAN WALLHEIMER
Orville Haney has his Purdue sales pitch down pat.
It's not glitzy or glamorous. It doesn't have to be.
Photo by Tom Campbell
The seat may be a little snugger than during his undergraduate days, but Tom Bradford still enjoys the classroom experience. Like so many other alums, Bradford comes back to share his business-world experiences with students like these in an agricultural economics course.
Each fall, Haney, BS '02, picks up a couple extra tickets to the Purdue Homecoming football game and walks a high school student or two through Lilly Hall to meet a few of his old professors.
And that's it.
"I've got a few students who were on the bubble about where they've wanted to go, and I've made them Boilermakers," Haney said. "I take them to see all my old friends in Animal Sciences and show them they can have a family away from home."
But Haney isn't a recruiter or admissions counselor. He's a dairy farmer and animal sciences graduate who feels like he owes Purdue something – and feels like he owes those high school students the opportunity to see his university the way he did when he roamed those same halls.
Barry Delks, BS '82, MS '84, lights up when he thinks about Haney bringing those kids to the homecoming football game.
"He's come to every homecoming since he graduated," Delks said. "How many young alums come to homecoming?"
Haney is quick to point out that he did miss one game, when his wife was just days away from giving birth to a son. She wasn't in any condition to travel, he said, and he wasn't in a position to leave her.
But Delks has more.
"Here's a guy whose barn burned down, and he came to Spring Fling a few months later," Delks said. "If you have more people like Orville Haney, you'd have more students interested in animal production. It's the Orville Haneys who are ambassadors for animal production, Purdue and animal sciences."
Those ambassadors are opening their farms to classes – which Haney has done – and bringing their experience into classrooms, a part of the Purdue Agriculture experience that has become integral to graduating well-rounded students.
Photo by Tom Campbell
Working hard is what elevated Lee Schmidt to the pinnacle of the golf course design profession. He advises students that success follows a good work ethic.
Scott Downey, an assistant professor of agricultural economics, said that without a doubt one of his most successful programs would have never gotten off the ground without alumni support.
Downey wanted to revamp his agriculture sales class and turned to Tom Bradford, BS '74, MS '77, for help. Bradford, a general manager at Crop Production Services, started coming to classes and bringing colleagues to hear student sales presentations — offering advice and sometimes jobs.
From there, the program has grown exponentially. The class's Ready, Set, Sell program at the end of the fall semester now brings in nearly 100 alumni, many of whom directly mentor students and then listen to their sales pitches.
"We could not run this program were it not for alumni," Downey said. "Many of them come back because they sat on the other side of the table for Ready, Set, Sell when they were students.
"From my perspective, this is one of the important ways alumni can really connect with students," Downey added. "We've had alumni come back from Florida, California and Texas to help with the program. I don't know that every university has that kind of commitment from their alumni."