Gov. Mitch Daniels will become Purdue University’s 12th president, succeeding France Cordova, a source familiar with the search process told IBJ Tuesday.
Purdue’s trustees are scheduled to meet in West Lafayette Thursday morning to vote on the selection. Daniels is the only candidate the board will vote on, the source said.
Daniels, a Republican who before entering politics was an Eli Lilly and Co. executive, is expected to finish out his second term as governor before assuming the post early next year.
Purdue officials did not immediately respond to phone messages and e-mails.
The university said in a press release that the new president would hold a press conference Friday morning at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.
Cordova is retiring next month after leading the school for five years. She turns 65 in August.
Daniels, 63, has been rumored to be a candidate since Cordova announced in July 2011 that she would retire.
Michael Berghoff, the Purdue trustee who has chaired the presidential search committee, wouldn’t comment on the rumors about Daniels during an interview with IBJ in March. But he did acknowledge that the Purdue trustees were looking for someone who had the ability both to raise money and to make the university operate efficiently.
“Perhaps five years ago, 10 years ago, the financial piece was mostly about fundraising,” said Berghoff, a Purdue alumnus who is president of Lenex Steel Corp. in Indianapolis. “Now, the financial piece is about fundraising as well as about operations.”
Daniels would take Purdue’s helm amid major challenges facing the university and its peers. U.S. public research universities like Purdue are facing clouds ahead, after roughly 20 years of “boom times,” wrote higher education analysts at New York-based Moody’s Investors Service in a December report. Students and parents increasingly can’t absorb massive tuition hikes, and state funding has not kept pace with inflation.
“It’s definitely a tougher environment,” said Diane Viacava, Moody’s analyst following Purdue, which Moody’s assigns its highest credit rating. “Although higher education remains highly desirable, it is increasingly competitive.”
Purdue is the state’s seventh-largest employer, with 15,000 workers. Its well-regarded programs in science, technology, engineering, computers and agriculture churn out a steady stream of the workers employers want.
In addition, its professors’ research can produce the technical innovations needed to launch new high-value products and companies that have the best shot of reversing Indiana’s long decline, relative to the rest of the nation, in personal incomes.