Putnam County and DePauw: History and Opportunity

Originally posted: August 19, 2008

by Brian W. Casey, President of DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana

The welcome I’ve received since arriving in Putnam County six weeks ago has been heartwarming and overwhelming. Regardless of whether they are local residents, DePauw employees, or both, people are proud of this community and the University, which they view as one of the region and the state’s greatest assets.

The first meeting I held after assuming DePauw’s presidency on July 1 was with Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray. We have had several discussions since and ours will be an important, ongoing dialogue.

DePauw and Greencastle have literally grown up with each other. It was the determination of local citizens in the early 1830s that an upstart liberal arts college be located in their town. We are intertwined. A short walk or drive affords local citizens opportunities to see free events such as Tony Blair’s speech or musical performances. Likewise, the town square and local businesses are within walking distance of our students’ living units.

I am proud to report that some 70% of DePauw students are making a personal and direct commitment to making this a better place by participating each year in community service projects. Further, 21% of our entering class is comprised of first-generation college students; in other words, no one in their family has ever graduated from college in the past.

Our undergraduates and the institution as a whole are reaching out, as are so many in the community. But we must examine ways to build upon the bonds we share and sometimes overlook. Please know that I am committed to making the relationship between DePauw and its Putnam County neighbors stronger.

Last Tuesday’s “Community Forward” summit, which I had the honor of participating in, provided an opportunity for many in our community to discuss our past, present and, most importantly, future.

The good work of the Hometown Greencastle Alliance suggested that Greencastle — with the 171-year history of DePauw and the new educational opportunities Ivy Tech will provide — could become known as “the best college town in the Midwest.” This is an opportune time to pursue this goal, and with the capable leadership of Mayor Murray, a challenge we can meet. But it will take continuing conversations — some pre-arranged and large, like yesterday’s summit; others small, neighbor-to-neighbor, student-to-citizen chats — for these efforts to gain traction. And DePauw will not shirk its responsibilities to be a voice, and a good listener, throughout.

It is my hope that the University can join with Ivy Tech and local leaders to work toward creating the vision of a “great college town,” determining concrete features that would serve to make Putnam County and even greater place to live and an increasing destination for new residents and tourists.

We have many assets and much to be excited about. Moreover, as the warm handshakes and smiles I’ve received from the people of Putnam County affirm, ours is a kind and embracing community. I look forward to working with all of you, and I thank Mayor Murray for her leadership.

Brian Casey assumed the presidency of DePauw on July 1. His appointment was announced in February after a nine-month international search for the University’s first new leader in 22 years. Dr. Casey comes to Greencastle from Harvard University, where he was associate dean for academic affairs in the faculty of arts and sciences.

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