On This Day in IUPUI History: January 28, 1969

January 28, 1969. 

On this day, Indiana University and Purdue University issued a joint news release announcing officially their plan to merge the Indianapolis campuses of both universities. The release said that university representatives had shared the plan with Indiana General Assembly legislators from Marion County on that day. In fact, university administrators had been in close communication with legislators for weeks to hash out details of a merger that would satisfy political leaders demanding improvements in public higher education in the capital city.

The press release outlined the details of the merger agreement, which would be rolled out in four phases prior to the 1971 session of the General Assembly. The "joint operation" would be called "Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis." IU would exercise "primary responsibility for management functions" for the campus. A chancellor would be the chief officer, appointed by Indiana University.

IU and Purdue would ask legislators in the current 1969 session of the General Assembly to assign all appropriations and bonding authority for capital projects in Indianapolis to IU, the statement said.

The release added that "faculty duplication" would be eliminated by assigning educational units for the new joint institution to either IU or Purdue. This referred to the division-of-labor agreement made on January 13 by Charles Lawshe and Joseph Hartley, vice presidents of Purdue and IU, respectively. 

Purdue president Frederick L. Hovde and IU president Joseph L. Sutton issued a joint statement:

We believe that the public higher education needs of young men and women in the Marion County area, as well as the economic welfare of the city and the state, require a unification of our operations in Indianapolis.

This is necessary in order to realize the greatest return from manpower and financial inputs. Furthermore, this must be accomplished without reducing the quality in our present programs. It must be thoroughly planned and coordinated so that our present high academic standards can be maintained during this period of transition.

We believe that this plan will accomplish these goals.

The president's statement was an attempt to put a happy face on a dire situation for the two state universities. Confronted with a real threat from Indianapolis political leaders to take away both universities' Indianapolis assets to create a separate state university, university administrators sprang into action to head off calamity. Language in the joint statement about the educational needs of students and "present  high academic standards" obscured the fact that city and state officials were driven to make bold threats because the weak and shallow educational opportunities offered at the two extension campuses in the city were inadequate to the needs of Indianapolis and its citizens. 

In the coming days, weeks, and months, university leaders worked to implement the merger. It would take years of careful planning and effort to bring to fruition the original agreement and set the new institution on a steady course toward academic excellence.

Aerial photo of IUPUI and IU Medical Center, 1969 UA24-002785

We encourage researchers interested in studying the intersection of city politics, economic development, and the rise of IUPUI to visit IUPUI Special Collections and Archives to consult the records. Contact us at speccoll@iupui.edu

Updated Jan 28, 2019 by Editor Name Missing