The automated plant phenotyping facility, under construction at Purdue’s Agronomy Center for Research and EducationThe automated plant phenotyping facility, under construction at Purdue’s Agronomy Center for Research and Education, will be dedicated this summer as the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center in recognition of a combined $4 million investment from the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council. (Photo by Jim Beaty)

Giving is Ever True to Purdue

New Buildings Create Opportunities to Meet New Challenges

By Keith Robinson - Published May 12, 2016

Excitement is building through the Purdue University College of Agriculture—quite literally.

The college has broken ground for two buildings that will equip faculty, staff and students with the latest technology to help them meet increasing need for innovation in animal sciences research and education. And construction of an automated plant phenotyping facility is nearly complete.

Animal Sciences

Site preparation began early this year for the Hobart and Russell Creighton (Creighton Brothers) Hall of Animal Sciences and the Land O'Lakes Center for Experiential Learning at the corner of Russell and Harrison streets on the West Lafayette campus. The buildings, to open next year, are being named in recognition of gifts of $5 million from each company.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels, addressing an audience during a groundbreaking ceremony in November, said the Purdue Board of Trustees and state legislators scrutinized the proposal to make sure the buildings will meet the university's long-term needs. He said the cause of helping agriculture find ways to provide more healthy, nutritious food for a rapidly growing world population made the rationale for the buildings "absolutely clear-cut."

He said it was exciting to look ahead to the students who will learn in the buildings and to "the great research and the many breakthroughs that generations worldwide will benefit from."

Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture, said the buildings will provide "world-class space to do the world-class work that our students need as they take positions of leadership in the animal industries." He noted that the Department of Animal Sciences has the largest undergraduate program in the college, with more than 700 students, 96 percent of whom find placement after graduation.

Plant Phenotyping

The university celebrated the support of the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council at an event at the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education, where the automated plant phenotyping facility will be dedicated this summer.

Daniels called the support of the two groups "an enormous step forward" to providing a better future for a rapidly growing world that faces pressing need for innovations to make agriculture more productive and efficient.

The facility—where plant characteristics will be identified and measured—is a component of Purdue Moves, a series of university initiatives Daniels announced in 2013 to broaden Purdue's global impact and enhance educational opportunities for its students.

The Indiana Soybean Alliance is providing $1 million in soybean checkoff funds to buy equipment for the facility, and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council is providing the same amount in corn checkoff funds to support construction. An additional $1 million from each organization is being placed into two endowments to fund corn and soybean research related to plant phenotyping and technology innovation in perpetuity.

Akridge said the building "will bring together people from not only our college but across campus and around the world to work in this very, very important area."

Michael Scharf sits in front of a lab microscopeMichael Scharf, O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Chair in Molecular Physiology and Urban Entomology. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Endowed Chairs Recognize, Support Expertise of Purdue Faculty

By Keith Robinson

Purdue University entomologist Michael Scharf gets into the guts of his work.

He conducts research into enzymes that termites use to digest wood they eat. Gaining a better understanding of what goes on in the guts of termites, long despised because of their destructiveness to homes, might yield a benefit not commonly associated with the pests: It could lead to new and better ways to produce biofuels. One challenge in producing biofuels is developing methods to efficiently break down the biomass of plants so it can be converted into energy. The enzymes in termite guts could be an answer.

That is only one part of Scharf's work as a professor and the O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Chair in Molecular Physiology and Urban Entomology. He leads many other research projects, among them tracking cockroach resistance to commercial baits to help the pest control industry produce more effective insecticides.

Creating Opportunities

"The O.W. Rollins/Orkin Endowment has been tremendously helpful to my research program by not only supporting existing research but also for supporting students at all levels," Scharf says. "It also has opened the door to new research opportunities that would typically not be competitive for conventional funding."

Scharf's expertise and prestige as an endowed chair has enabled him to attract more than $2.3 million in research funding from sources such as the U.S. Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development, the National Science Foundation, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont since arriving at Purdue in 2010. He is the first endowed chair in the Department of Entomology.

The O.W. Rollins/Orkin Chair is among the college's current 14 endowed chairs, or named professorships, which enable the faculty members to develop more research, educational and programming opportunities.

The College of Agriculture has begun a campaign in which it is asking supporters to create 10 new endowed chairs as part of "Ever True: The Campaign for Purdue University," the largest fundraising effort in the university's history. The college received a gift from an anonymous donor in the amount of $10 million, which will be used to help fund new endowed chairs. The college is seeking matching donations of $1 million for each of the 10 chairs in the drive called the Endowed Chair Challenge.

Supporting, Honoring

"Endowed chairs are a way for our donors to help us provide additional support for some of our most outstanding faculty members," says Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture. "These prestigious chairs help to honor the accomplishments of Purdue Agriculture faculty and, more important, support their research, teaching and Extension programs, positioning them for leadership at the state, national and international levels."

Some donors choose to name a chair to honor a family member or other important person in their life. Sample's family in 2005 established an endowment that named the College of Agriculture deanship after the pioneer in agriculture who received his bachelor's degree from Purdue in 1935 and an honorary doctorate in 1972.

For information on how to support the Endowed Chair Challenge or any initiative of the College of Agriculture, contact Eric Putman by email at or by telephone at 765-494-8672.

To learn more about Ever True, visit, or connect with #PurdueEverTrue on social media.