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Purdue's Department of History gets $6M donation

A historic gift – that’s what administrators in Purdue’s Department of History are calling a $6 million donation.

Anonymous donors are giving $3 million. The university is matching that with an additional $3 million. The money will fund two new professor positions – one teaching the history of science and the other focusing on the history of medicine.

Department head Doug Hurt says those subjects will bolster what they already offer.

“We have strengths in the history of technology already and so it makes sense to build on that with science and medicine,” he says. “The Department of History, I think, will become even more relevant to the liberal arts and to Purdue.”

He says the future courses in science and medicine will depend upon the individuals hired. The department offers the history of European and American technology as well as the history of aviation and the space industry.

President Mitch Daniels says the gift should benefit students who are not majoring in history as well.

“Those students who are studying the so-called STEM disciplines here really have to have a grounding, a firm grounding, in the liberal arts,” he says. “Viewed the other way, students in the liberal arts have a rare opportunity at Purdue to absorb much of the science and technology, which is really the driving force for changes in the world they’ll live in.”

The Department of History already offers technology courses, which will be combined with the new subjects.

Hurt thinks the new offerings will help grow the graduate and undergraduate programs and have a positive impact on recruitment.

“It will elevate what we do in terms of the courses we offer as well as the research that’s done in the department,” he says. “It will also create a graduate program that will almost instantly have national recognition.”

A nationwide search for the new professors will begin this fall.

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