I went there. My sister went there. My mother and father went there. A grandfather went there. A great-grandfather went there.
You get the idea.
I love Purdue and the Boilermakers, no matter how many times the football and basketball teams have broken my heart. When the Boilers made the Rose Bowl in 2001, there was nothing that would keep us away from Pasadena, including a wild 48 sleepless hours that included weather, four airports, a lost and re-found credit card and a scary van ride from Pasadena to LAX. But we had good friends with us, saw Purdue play in a Rose Bowl (it didn't matter that it was a loss), and took away great memories.
Of course we love our universities. They were times where we lived in a bubble. We were on our own (sort of), and mostly without all the responsibilities that real life would present us in a few short years. I went to Purdue as an engineering student. I had considered going to Michigan State, which also a good engineering program, but there was little doubt where I would go. I can remember walking the campus as a student just as it was yesterday, not 30 years ago.
I worked at the student newspaper, the Exponent, where I fell in love with journalism and decided to make it a career. I worked with a lot of great people, an unbelievably talented group. We pushed each other to be get better each day. Later, I shot for the school yearbook, the Debris, where I worked with another terrific staff. I’m still friends with many of the people from both places. When you work in close quarters on tight deadlines, you form bonds with people, bonds that last more than 30 years. The experiences we shared allowed me to hit the ground running in my newspaper career, and to have the success that I did.
Of course, I loved football Saturdays. There’s nothing like it. There was always a fall crispness to the air and I loved shooting the games. Basketball games were two-hour thrill rides. Every game I shot in Ross-Ade Stadium or Mackey Arena was a special event, and those venues were my places of zen.
Those people and experiences are why Purdue is so special to me, and for my time there I will be ever grateful, ever true.
Seeing Purdue play in the Rose Bowl certainly was special, and the wild 48-hour, no-sleep adventure that got us to Pasadena and back is a story in its own. I was at the game where Bob Knight threw the chair. There was the road trip to Detroit in 1988 to see the Boilermakers with Troy Lewis, Todd Mitchell and Everette Stephens in the NCAA Tournament against Kansas State, a team they had crushed during the regular season. The Boilers were on their way to the Final Four until Stephens dribbled the ball off his leg in the final minute to send us home with another soul-crushing loss. There were countless college road trips where we piled as many student journalists as possible into a couple of cars and went off to Madison or Ann Arbor, most times with no place to stay the night, but with gameday credentials. Most of those ended in losses. One win came in the inaugural game in the Hoosier Dome, where Purdue upset Notre Dame in 1984. But there was one episode, one fleeting moment of time, one that I have only to myself. We were at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, known as “The Barn,” the ancient fieldhouse where Purdue was facing Minnesota with the 1984 Big Ten basketball title on the line. It was March, but it was below zero outside, and the drafty Barn was chilly. I was photographing the game, and had to shoot with my elbows on the floor, which is elevated from the crowd level. The Boilers, with Jim Rowinski, defeated the Gophers to win the title. By the time I shot the on-court celebration and gathered up my equipment, I headed into the bowels of the Barn, and I was running behind getting to the interview room. It’s like the catacombs underneath the arena, and is easy to get lost, but I somehow found myself in a hallway right behind Purdue coach Gene Keady with SID Jim Vruggink as they were heading to the postgame interviews. It was just the three of us walking along, and Keady turns to Vruggink and says, “You know what I like most about this? This gives us 16 Big Ten championships and Indiana only has 15.” Yes, I know. The Hoosiers have all their banners. But that one instant was all Boilermaker, and will stay with me forever.