“If you think of the school like a big
machine, annual, unrestricted giving is
the grease that keeps everything moving,”
said David Bahr, materials engineering
head and professor. “It provides us with a
resource for unexpected activities. It lets us
take advantage of opportunities and carry
out all sorts of projects.”
In the last year, for example, he reports,
“We sent about 20 undergraduates to the
national materials engineering professional
meeting, supported student entrepreneur-
ial projects, and assisted students in study
Robert “Bob” Maddin (BSMSE ’ 42), is one
of the loyal supporters who has contributed
to the School of Materials Engineering over
many years. Relying on unrestricted fund-
ing such as Maddin’s, the school is better
able to achieve its part in the strategic
growth initiative, which includes more
hands-on learning and leadership oppor-
tunities for students (see Pages 4-5). For
instance, last year, unrestricted gifts helped
send a team of students to an invitational
international business plan competition, in
which they won second place.
Unrestricted giving also enabled the
school to do things such as organize
student/alum meetings, to pay for travel to
plant tours, to support high school chemistry teachers' learning about integrating
materials engineering in their classrooms,
and to fund a teaching assistant for a lab
with more than 50 students.
All of these things make a difference.
“Without our loyal alums giving annually,
really embracing the ‘ever grateful, ever true’
part of their alma mater, we would have to
say ‘no’ more than we would like,” Bahr said.
A Boilermaker since 1939
Maddin remembers well the day Purdue said
“yes” to him. After rejecting his high school
guidance counselor’s recommendation that
he become an actuary, and after trying
English literature studies, he began working
at a hard rock copper mine in Arizona and
became interested in metallurgy.
Upon his friend’s suggestion to look into
Purdue, Maddin wrote to John Bray, then
head of Purdue’s chemical and metallurgical
engineering department, asking for a job
as well as admission. Bray offered work
helping construct an electric furnace.
Maddin began the job and his studies
in 1939. “I worked steadily,” he said. He
earned his degree in three years while
working in the lab, waiting tables at a
fraternity house and selling shoes on
Saturdays. His professors, he said, “made
After graduating, Maddin served in
the army, which sent him to Yale to study
communications. After his three-year stint,
he returned to Yale, earned a metallurgy
doctorate, then spent six years at Johns
Hopkins University teaching metallurgy.
When the field began changing from
chemistry-based to physics-based metallurgy, he was drawn to a new opportunity
at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I was involved in the beginning of a new
field,” he said.
By the time of his 1983 retirement
from Pennsylvania, he was ready for yet
another new adventure. During a sabbati-
cal at Oxford, he had studied the history
of metallurgy, which led him to teach the
beginning of the use of metals and alloys
at Harvard University for three years.
Currently, he is no longer teaching and lives
in Washington D.C.
“Without curiosity about ourselves and
our world, it would be a pretty dull place,”
he said of his lifelong explorations and
achievements. These also included launching
the field of materials science and engineering
— an attempt to bridge the gap between the
science and engineering of materials — and
receiving a 1974 Purdue Distinguished
Engineering Alumnus Award.
Purdue’s support in helping him find
work and in giving him a solid education
has inspired him to give to the School of
“Purdue did a great deal for me,” he said.
“What I can give to Purdue, I am glad to.”
When Bahr recently met with Maddin,
he heard about the 1939 letter and furnace
job. “That type of activity — finding the
right fit and helping students on the path to
success — are exactly what we use annual,
unrestricted funds for,” Bahr said. “He is
helping to continue the tradition.”
Purdue’s private and corporate gifts make an increasingly large difference as state
funding declines. Today, ongoing unrestricted giving, such as Robert Maddin’s,
helps make many of the day-to-day activities of the University possible.