On Monday of this week, I took a three-hour drive north to visit Purdue University.
The CoRec and its team are appearing on the cover of our November/December issue. While a lot of things led me to choosing Purdue for a cover story, it just so happens it’s quite timely considering Howard Taylor, the director of Purdue for 14 years, is retiring in January.
It was a privilege to spend four hours with Taylor and his team, touring the 470,000-plus square foot building. I also got to see the brand-new club sport fields, a challenge course and the boat house that holds the club rowing team – they are one of the best club rowing teams in the nation, if not the best. It took a couple hours to walk through the entire space. However, it was amazing seeing it from Taylor’s eyes as he had been part of the entire project to update and add on to the CoRec.
In fact, one of my favorite parts about visiting recreation centers is that often I’ve already talked to the director and staff, so I get to see exactly what we talked about. Taylor had mentioned their gym space and how it’s large enough to host 1,000-seat dinners for the president – which it has. With my own eyes, I observed it is indeed big enough.
Plus, I get to learn about the little nuisances while visiting. For example, the line designs on the walls were chosen to create a feeling of motion in the space. They also had to get creative in hiding ceiling sprinklers while meeting the fire code, done through colorful, three-sided rectangles that go with the line design. All of it comes together to make the CoRec the impressive building it is today.
I also saw the staff interact, something you can’t do over the phone. We had lunch during my visit, and I chatted with Purdue’s senior recreation team. Most of them have been there 10-plus years, and I could tell they all appreciated Taylor as a leader. In fact, one told me it’s hard to imagine Purdue without him.
That comment alone spoke volumes about his leadership. But seeing the team joke and jest with Taylor, watching the whole staff laugh and chat during the group photo, spoke volumes about the culture as a whole.
I know there are a lot of things that go into one’s culture, but I personally believe the leader is a large part of it. They lead and direct and set the rest of the team on the correct path. And I saw that truth be very evident in my visit to Purdue. So, I suppose that’s one of the biggest takeaways from my visit to the university. While the facilities were impressive, the culture was the best part. And I can only hope as Taylor moves on that the culture I saw at Purdue will only grow stronger because of the foundation he helped build.