Purdue President Mitch Daniels took time Thursday to honor two men who helped evacuate residents from an off-campus apartment that was totaled by fire earlier this month.
Daniels gave the school’s “One Brick Higher” award to sophomore ROTC cadet Greg Cohen and to 28-year employee Kevin Thedans.
Both helped rescue people from the blaze, which took the life of 22-year-old Cody Day.
Daniels says he talked with both men in the days leading up to the ceremony, and neither sought praise.
"Predictably, both were very matter-of-fact and bashful about their own actions. But hearing their stories from others and then from them convinced me that we really needed to take special note of this," Daniels says.
Cohen says he’s grateful to receive the award, but he’s still saddened at the loss of life in the fire.
"Bittersweet is a good way of putting it," Cohen says. "Obviously I wasn't thinking about getting an award or getting public recognition when I was going into the building. I just wanted to make sure everybody was out. Losing life is always going to be heavier than any award I'm going to receive."
Thedans works in the university’s loss prevention department and has regular contact with police and fire officials. He says that training likely helped his reaction when he came upon the fire around 5 a.m. on April 24.