Bicentennial Torch Makes Hometown Stop At Purdue

Oct 12, 2016

David Wolf tries to match Neil Armstrong's footsteps during the state's bicentennial torch relay.
Credit Sarah Fentem / WBAA

Indiana’s bicentennial torch relay is just days from wrapping up in Indianapolis. But before its big finish, the torch received a lively homecoming Wednesday morning as it passed through Purdue University on its 92-county journey through the state.

Students serenaded the torch relay in front of Bailey Hall and the Boilermaker special greeted the procession with a whistle.

Torchbearer Linda Eales, clad in the official yellow torchbearer windbreaker, was waiting with a small group of friends for her turn to carry the flame to the edge of Purdue’s campus.  

“The big thing is I don’t want to fall and set the town on fire,” she said as she set off with the 3-pound beacon.

Credit Sarah Fentem / WBAA

Before reaching Eales, the torch traveled through downtown Lafayette. A rapeller carried the torch down the side of the Myers pedestrian bridge to a canoe, which carried it across the Wabash River.

The flame was also hoisted by Purdue President Mitch Daniels, who carried it past John Purdue’s grave toward Armstrong Hall, home of the school’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Program, where students and faculty designed the torch’s body and burners.

Aeronautics and Astronautics professor Timothee Pourpoint, a specialist in rocket combustion systems, oversaw the torch’s design and production process. He was on hand to see the torch, carried by astronaut David Wolf, run past Purdue’s Neil Armstrong statue.

“It’s a tremendous day, two years in the making exactly,” said Pourpoint. “It’s quite amazing.”

It was far from the first time Pourpoint had seen it in action, though. Pourpoint and other engineering students comprise a sort of bicentennial pit crew that can fix the torch if anything happens to go wrong on its journey.

Wolf, clad in a blue flight suit, ran the torch along the reproductions of Neil Armstrong’s lunar footsteps in front of the university’s Armstrong Hall.

Those are big steps!” said Wolf, laughing along with bystanders as he bounded from one boot print to the next. “He was running on the moon!”

Dean of students emerita Betty Nelson admires the bicentennial torch as she carries it up Grant Street Wednesday.
Credit Sarah Fentem / WBAA

After the last leg of the journey across Purdue’s campus, students who built the torch boarded the Boilermaker Special for a victory lap around Zucrow Labs, the jet-propulsion lab west of campus.