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Armstrong's impact felt throughout Purdue

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Outside of Purdue’s Hall of Engineering are replica footprints of the man the building is named after.

But, they are larger than average, which is fitting because the footprint Neil Armstrong left on the moon, campus, and history is enormous.

"I don't think you could find a person at Purdue, alumnus, faculty, staff, student who didn't understand what he meant to Purdue, but to the world," said acting Purdue President Tim Sands.  "I don't think you could find a group on campus that doesn't relate to him and won't miss him."

Standing in front of the Neil Armstrong Hall and a statute of the first man to put his feet on the moon, Sands reflected on the impact of the university’s most famous and well-traveled alumnus.

Armstrong passed away Saturday due to complications from cardiovascular procedures. 

“We are going to miss him, but obviously his legacy will live on," said Sands.  "(He was) a very important alumnus of Purdue, probably the most influential and inspirational of our alums.”

The foundation of Armstrong’s famed walk on the moon is grounded at Purdue.

He came to the university in 1947 through a program that required him to serve for three years in the Navy in between his four years of school.

So, in 1949, Armstrong began a three year stint in the U.S Navy during which he served in the Korean War.

After his tour of duty, he returned to Purdue and completed his degree in aerospace engineering in 1955.

“I think  any of our aero/astro students or really any of our engineering students, it goes beyond engineering, but any of our students at Purdue understand his legacy and were inspired by him,” said Sands.

Armstrong made the most of his time as a Boilermaker.  It was at Purdue where he met his first wife Janet.  He played baritone in the All-American Marching Band and was a member of Phi Delta Theta.

Saturday night, the fraternity held a memorial service for their fallen brother.

“I was actually working out when I heard the news and it just took the life out of everyone,” said Chapter President Paul Bloodgood.

Bloodgood says while most of the current members never met Armstrong, several exchanged emails with him.  He says that accessibility and those connections point to the man Armstrong truly was.

“It's unreal.  I can't put it into words.  It's Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon," said Bloodgood.  "Just to be able to share that bond with him where he'll take the time out of his day to respond to an email to a 20-something-year-old, I can't imagine how many e-mails he gets, or cards or anything.  It just shows how much he cares and it's just really, really special.”

Armstrong touched foot on the moon more than 20 years before students like Bloodgood or Thomas Just were even born.

Just is a senior studying aerospace engineering.

He says even though the Apollo 11 flight occurred decades before he started pursuing a similar space career, Armstrong has always been one of his heroes.

“I've pretty much wanted to do this since before I knew what the name of what I wanted to do was and it's pretty much because of Neil Armstrong," said Just.  "He pretty much gave me something to aspire to do.”

Just was studying in Neil Armstrong Hall when he heard the news of the astronaut’s passing and admits he shed some tears.

He says it’s special to be pursuing the same degree, for a similar career, at the same university as his idol.

But Just says neither he nor anyone else can match the life and legacy of Neil Armstrong.

“He inspired not just his generation, but six generations at least of kids,  of children.  He gave them something to dream about," said Just.

"He fulfilled a dream of not just the technical aspects of it, but the dream that is in our genetics to want to explore and venture out into space and he took that very first step and he'll always be remembered  for that.”

Neil Armstrong passed away at the age of 82.

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