(INDIANAPOLIS) — Redefining what a modern institution of higher education can look like – through incorporating a business mindset and taking calculated risks – has embodied the Mitch Daniels era at Purdue University.

For the bold, forward-looking initiatives he has championed and implemented over the last five-plus years as president, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has named Daniels the state’s 2018 Ogletree Deakins Business Leader of the Year.

Daniels will be honored during the organization’s 29th Annual Awards Dinner, presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, on November 13 at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

“A university can and really should be more business-like in much of what it does,” Daniels believes.

“Places like [Purdue] are centers of innovation; they are doing great new research, adding to knowledge, exploring new ideas – that’s what the best of our universities do. But in terms of how they behave themselves, they are the most reactionary places I’ve seen. That’s ironic and it’s really not suited to the world that we are in,” he admits.

“Especially for a school as innovative as Purdue, we should be at least as open to new ideas to how we run our own enterprise as we are helping the world to be through our breakthroughs and innovations.”

Says Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, “Mitch Daniels has managed to strike the right balance of challenging the norms of academia while both respecting and taking to the next level Purdue’s core mission of teaching, research and engagement on behalf of the state.”

Examples of that can be found in Daniels’ actions to achieve enrollment growth:

  • Freezing tuition costs in 2013 and keeping that in place for at least six more years, through 2019-20
  • The acquisition of Kaplan University in order to put a stake in the ground as a meaningful online institution as the newly-branded Purdue Global
  • Creating the Back a Boiler program, which uses income share agreements to help increase college affordability for some students

Locking in tuition rates, in particular, “has turned into a major marketing competitive advantage,” offers Daniels.

Another potential game-changer is the Discovery Park District area just west of the campus. It’s a 50/50 partnership between Purdue, which kicked off its 150th birthday celebration last weekend, and the city of West Lafayette.

“The goal is in a few years to have much more vibrant retail, hospitality and residential options right up here around our campus, and to trigger economic growth around our airport which then will bring new people to the community, new dollars for those retail places, owners for the housing we intend – just build a whole lot more vibrant community,” Daniels explains.

Previously, the Indiana Chamber named Daniels its Government Leader of the Year in 2006, during his first term as Governor.

Three additional honorees will be recognized at the Indiana Chamber’s mid-November event: Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush (Government Leader of the Year); Jim Hallett of KAR Auction Services (Dynamic Leader of the Year); and the City of Jasper (Republic Airways and Lift Academy Community of the Year).

J.D. Vance, author of the New York Times best-seller Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, will keynote the Chamber Awards Dinner. The success of the book put Vance on the national stage and he has appeared on numerous news programs to discuss politics and public policy; he currently can be seen as a contributor on CNN. Tables of 10 or individual tickets can be purchased at www.indianachamber.com/ad or by calling (800) 824-6885.

The opening reception sponsor is PNC; the speaker reception sponsor is Hirons.

Corporate sponsors are AT&T Indiana; CBRE; French Lick Resort; NIPSCO; OneAmerica; Tilson; and Zimmer Biomet.

Contributing sponsors are AECOM Hunt; Allison Transmission; Community Health Network; Corteva Agriscience™, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont; DISHER; FedEx; Fineline Printing Group; IGT Indiana; Indiana Soybean Alliance/Indiana Corn Marketing Council; Indiana Wesleyan University; Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick; KERAMIDA Inc.; The Kroger Co; Markey’s Rental & Staging; MCM CPAs & Advisors; Pacers Sports & Entertainment; Roche Diagnostics Corporation; Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.; Vectren; Vera Bradley; WFYI Productions; and WGU Indiana.

Additional sponsorships are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876 or [email protected].

Media interested in covering the event should contact Rebecca Patrick at (317) 264-6897 or [email protected].


The Indiana Chamber partners with 25,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”