Editors Note: This is part 2 of a series about the connections between Purdue and India. See part 1, about the first Indian students at Purdue, here.
Purdue forged new connections with India in the 1960s, collaborating in the planning and expansion of educational programs at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur. The IIT, a government funded educational institution, was founded in 1959. Starting in 1962, IIT participated in the Kanpur Indo-American Program, which provided technical assistance from nine U.S. institutions (including Purdue) to develop strong engineering programs, enhance instruction, and research.
In a document titled, “The P.K. Kelkar Library: The first ten years and the collaboration with the Purdue University Libraries,” former Purdue Librarian Professor Richard Funkhouser explained the background for the development of the Institute, “…the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur (IIR/K) was a joint project of the Government of India and the United States Agency for International Development (U.S. A.I.D.). The aim was to build a world-recognized, doctoral degree granting, research university of the highest quality.”
In addition to Purdue, eight other United States universities collaborated on this effort: University of California at Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon), Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, Ohio State, and Princeton University. All of these universities were, and still are, well known for the excellent science and engineering programs they provide. These universities also provided visiting faculty and support staff to serve as advisors.
According to notes kept by Funkhouser, “The Purdue Libraries had a unique role in the development of the Institute’s library, especially the collection. Four Purdue Librarians had active participation in the project. George Meluch and I each spent two years there and Robert Cain spent 18 months there, Oliver Dunn the Libraries Associate Director, was the Purdue Libraries liaison for the project and spent several weeks each in 1962, 1964, 1966 and 1968 at the Institute gathering data and writing the original development plan, reviewing progress and updating the plan.”
A valuable resource on the history of Purdue’s collaboration in this effort is the collection of records on the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, part of the Purdue Archives and Special Collections. The collection was assembled by employees of the Purdue Libraries who helped build the new library at the IIT Kanpur. The records focus primarily on the books that were purchased and new procedures established for library staff. They also include documents on the early years of the IIT Kanpur, such as early reports, course bulletins, newsletters, and brochures. These records provide insight into the development of IIT Kanpur and the roles Purdue University and other university employees from U.S. institutions played in contributing to the developing infrastructure of the new institute.
Although participation in the Kanpur Indo-American Program ended in 1972, Purdue continues to work closely with the Indian Institute of Technology system. In 2015, President Mitch Daniels signed a memo of understanding with Uday B. Desai, director of the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad. The goal of this agreement was to strengthen and expand contacts between the two universities, with Purdue partnering on innovative approaches to course content and delivery. The agreement also included plans for faculty and student exchange and collaborative research and education programs.
Blog post by Mary A. Sego (’82), Processing Assistant, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections.
MSP 152, Purdue University International Students collection, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries
MSF 462, Richard L. Funkhouser book chapter, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries
Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur records, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections
Vertical File, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries
Purdue, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad to expand educational, research collaborations, Purdue Today, May 5, 2015. https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/purduetoday/releases/2015/Q2/purdue,-indian-institute-of-technology-hyderabad-to-expand-educational,-research-collaborations.html