Tag Archives: purdue history

Kassandra Agee Chandler Broke Barriers as Purdue’s first African American Homecoming Queen

Kassandra “Katie” Agee Chandler was born to a blue-collar family from Gary, Indiana. She originally aspired to attend an out of state college following high school graduation. This plan was disrupted when she was contacted by Dr. Cornell Bell of Purdue University. Bell discovered Kassandra Agee during her senior year of high school and persisted in efforts to recruit her for the Business Opportunity Program (BOP) at Purdue, despite Kassandra’s initial desire to live out of state.

Business Opportunity Program pamphlets

Through the BOP, Dr. Bell brought bright and promising students to enroll in the Krannert Business School. The initiative was started after Bell observed that Krannert and other business schools were historically lacking in diversity, which contributed to an overall lack of diversity in the profession of business.

Business Opportunity Program group photo

After entering the program, students like Agee received mentorship, tutoring, and a sense of family and belonging at Purdue. Kassandra entered the program in the fall of 1977 and graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Purdue.

Kassandra Agee Chandler at Homecoming

As a sophomore in the fall of 1978, Agee was elected Purdue’s Homecoming Queen, the first and, to date, only African American Homecoming Queen in Purdue’s history. As a representative of Meredith Residence Halls, she competed against 23 other competitors to win her title.

Newspaper clippings

When reflecting later upon the nomination and campaign experience, Kassandra remembered being told, “They’ll never let you win this.” But she drew upon the strength of her faith, family, friends, and dorm-mates, as well as her own tenacity.

She worked tirelessly on her campaign, going door-to-door, speaking with groups across campus, and hanging campaign posters.

Homecoming campaign materials

She remembered, “I didn’t let it get to me. I never let anyone talk me down…. In the end, I was able to make my family and sisterhood proud…I felt like Cinderella…it was all a collective effort of sisterhood, of campus-hood, of brotherhood.”

Congratulations notes

After winning, Agee received local and national press, as well as campus and community wide support. Along with the many press releases, newspaper clippings, and congratulatory notes, she was invited to appear in the Rose Bowl Parade alongside the Homecoming Queens from the other Big 10 Universities. As she later said, “I’m a blue collar daughter but I was queen on the campus of Purdue. In sharing my story of what is possible during the most improbable and seemingly impossible time, I hope [to] inspire.”

Rose Bowl materials

In addition to her role as Homecoming Queen and a leader for African American students on campus, Agee was also active in extracurricular activities. She was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta freshman honor society, Purdue Pals, and the Black Voices of Inspiration Choir. Agee was also a president and founding member of Purdue’s Society of Minority Managers. She served as a social counselor for the Business Opportunity Program and was a member of the Mortar Board senior honors society.

Mortar Board

Her involvement in student activities reflected her leadership role on campus, as well as her excellent academic record.

After graduating from the Krannert School of Management, Agee held positions at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Exxon, Dow Chemical and Procter & Gamble.

Agee Chandler speaking at podium

In the years since her graduation, she has frequently returned to campus to give presentations on topics ranging from her work in the business world to her experiences as homecoming queen. After years of professional experience working for industry leaders in both the public and private sector, she founded Systematic Design Consultants, where she is the principal consultant. The company is an information technology consulting firm located in Texas.

Cornell Bell letter

Agee is also a founding member of the Business Opportunity Program Alumni Network, which seeks to further the legacy of Dr. Cornell Bell and ensure the continued success of the BOP. The Network engages in fundraising, advising, and seeks to provide a support network for BOP alumni by keeping them connected while providing opportunities that will ensure their continued success in the professional business world.

Kassandra Agee Chandler returns to her alma mater this year to serve as grand marshal of the Boilermaker Night Train Homecoming Parade on September 21. This homecoming is particularly special, as Purdue officially launches the start of its sesquicentennial celebrations from fall 2018 through fall 2019.

The Black Cultural Center is offering a display of historical photographs and related items on Kassandra Agee Chandler, on the 2nd floor near the library, through the end of October. We hope you will join us in celebrating Kassandra’s rich life and legacy — at Purdue, and beyond.


MSA 363, Kassandra Agee Chandler papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries, West Lafayette, Indiana

Chandler, Kassandra Agee. “My Pieces of History: A Queen’s Journey to Archival Peace (and Release).” 6 February, 2018, Krannert Auditorium, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Written by Virginia Pleasant. All images from the Kassandra Agee Chandler papers.

The Purdue University Buildings Project, Part I: Beginning the Research Process, Challenges, and Unfolding Histories

In April 2015, I began working as a graduate student archival assistant on the Purdue Buildings Project. The project, a comprehensive research endeavor of the entire structural history of the West Lafayette campus, is funded by Richard Funkhouser, a former Purdue University Libraries faculty member for over 44 years. As Funkhouser states, “As a librarian and researcher, I understood the importance of documenting campus buildings, interiors as well as exteriors, before that information disappears.” Additionally, information regarding the Purdue University campus buildings is one of the top inquiries received by the Libraries’ Division of Archives and Special Collections. For many years, Archives faculty, namely David Hovde, have been compiling data on the structures of Purdue. Now, thanks to Mr. Funkhouser, a team of staff and students is working to create a robust online resource for the campus and beyond.

1890 Purdue West Lafayette campus map

1890 Purdue West Lafayette campus map

Once complete, the colloquially-named Buildings Project will include a detailed description of every building that has ever been at Purdue. This content will be available for interested parties via an interactive website containing georeferenced maps, photos, and historical information. Indeed, once the information is online, researchers not only at Purdue but around the world will be able to directly access historical documents and data concerning the growth of one of the preeminent research universities in the U.S., thus increasing the depth and scope of scholarly communication at Purdue University and beyond.

Until the formalization of the university archives in 2009, research into the history of the Purdue West Lafayette campus has been decentralized and quite challenging. Even now, researching campus history remains an exercise in patience. In the first months on the project, I engaged in trial and error as I looked for a way to gather information in a way that seemed the least time consuming. Over time, my plan has morphed to gather materials by decades instead of finding one building at a time. Early Purdue building financing, construction, renovation, and use data is often not documented until years after the building was in use. In one example, a building built in 1905 had little to no information recorded in university records until noted in the 1915 Annual Register.

Purdue ladies in colonial costumes on stage of Ladies Hall

Purdue ladies in colonial costumes on stage of Ladies Hall

Other challenges include inconsistent or erroneous source materials; in some cases, building names and usage descriptions differ depending on the source. Nevertheless, through documentation and analysis of the data, I have been able to ascertain probable, if not certain, data about most structures. And the research continues. Indeed, I suspect the discovery of information in this manner will continue during the life of the project.

Personally, so far this project has been very insightful and fun to research. As a graduate student I actually don’t engage with the university history as much as I would have as an undergraduate taking the various school tours or courses across the breadth of campus. However, this project has allowed me to learn Purdue history and explore the campus in new ways. I have found it enriching to learn about old customs at the university and to learn what features were once a part of the campus and what features remain decades after their construction.

Purdue Hall, circa 1911

Purdue Hall, circa 1911

Over the course of the year I have been working I have learned a great deal about the beginning of the University and some of the issues with the first buildings. For instance, the Men’s Dormitory, built in 1872, was first created without chimneys, leading to heating issues. It was also interesting to learn about the Ladies Hall, built in 1874, where women were required to be chaperoned by a female faculty member. Furthermore, researching buildings leads one to learn a great deal about past campus culture, programs, and attitudes. Of note, Purdue in its early years was very concerned about the integrity of the agricultural program and, as a land grant institution founded to promote the mechanical arts, was hesitant to place emphasis on the humanities as a program of study.

Ladies Hall, 1929

Ladies Hall, 1929

One of the most interesting facts concerning the history of university buildings surrounds World War I. The book Purdue University: Fifty Years of Progress states that under the terms of its contract with the War Department, the University agreed to house, subsist, and train 1,500 men in Section A near the end of the war. The Government pledged itself to one dollar per man per day for housing and subsistence, and twelve cents for tuition. Buildings put into use for men in training included living quarters and sheds for equipment. Fraternity houses also took in family members, mostly wives, until they could find a more permanent living situation. At the fraternity homes dances and other social affairs were often given for the soldiers.

Military barracks on campus

R.O.T.C. and Military barracks during World War I

Each day on this project brings its own challenges, yet the team at the archives has been able to research, compare, and combine multiple sources to ensure a detailed description of the buildings. To date I have identified approximately 100 buildings, dating up to 1935. In the coming months and years, Purdue Archives and Special Collection will continue to document the buildings history of Purdue. As Purdue is always growing and changing, so too will this project.


Editor’s Note: Margaret Sheble, a Medieval Literature graduate student within the Department of English, has been a graduate assistant in Archives and Special Collections for nearly two years.

The Purdue Seal: Symbol and Synergy…

The Purdue University seal has evolved over the years, and upon close observation, the history of the University is reflected in this evolution. The first Purdue University seal was designed by Bruce Rogers in 1890, and there have been nine significant changes over the years. The present three part shield, designed by Al Gowan in 1968, reflects Purdue’s three permanent aims of the university: education, research, and service.

In today’s information age, people are constantly bombarded with many visual images and messages. The seal provides a strong visual identity that is recognized instantly and positively by key audiences around the world. Many alumni take pride in Purdue’s seal, and instant memories and emotions are evoked when the seal is seen on various documents and memorabilia.

Today the official university seal is used only for formal and official communications such as diplomas, letters of acceptance and communication from the Board of Trustees and the University president.

The following provides a look at how the seal evolved and those who took part in its design.

Seal 1

The First Purdue Seal

1890, First Design
Bruce Rogers designed the first Purdue seal for the cover of the Annual Register of 1890-91. Rogers was a Purdue undergraduate student at the time. His design emphasized the curriculum offered at the University. His inexperience is evident by the fact that the design was unsuitable for the letterpress printing process of the day. The design was never officially adopted by the University.

Seal 2

The Second Purdue Seal



 1894, Second Design
Bruce Rogers also drew the second Purdue seal, which first appeared on the cover of the Exponent’s October 1 issue of 1894. This design remained loyal to the original concept but was better suited for reproduction. However, he added a caduceus to represent the new School of Pharmacy, which created a problem of too many symbols. By this time Rogers had graduated from Purdue, and in 1895 he moved to Boston.


Third Purdue Seal

1895, Third Design, Introduction of the Griffin           Abby Phelps Lytle was asked by the University administration to design the third seal while head of the art department at Purdue. She introduced the slanted shield, Uncial lettering and the winged griffin. This design was used for nearly fifteen years. The intricate design, though aesthetically pleasing, was difficult to clearly reproduce.


1905, Fourth Design  This fourth design was probably a study attempted by some engineering students. It is actually a bronze casting and is not suitable for reproduction. The image printed here is a graphic rendering of the three-dimensional piece. The image appears on the cover of a photo album of campus buildings from around that time period. It may have been a stimulus for the Benjamin design which came a few years later.

Fourth Purdue Seal Design

Fourth Purdue Seal Design

Fifth Purdue Seal

Fifth Purdue Seal


1909, Fifth design
Charles H. Benjamin, Dean of Engineering, designed the fifth Purdue seal. This design first appeared in the Purdue University Catalogue of 1909-10. The University wanted the Lytle design simplified and selected Benjamin, who was considered to be an artist as well as an engineer, to do the job. He worked from a sketch by Mrs. Marion Woodbury, the daughter of the Dean. The shield was reduced in size and the symbols reduced to three. The griffin now held a Roman lamp of learning. The design was used for the next sixty years.


1924, Sixth Seal Design

1924, Sixth Seal Design

1924, A Variation
This variation, the sixth design, appeared in the Semi-Centennial Alumni Record of 1924. It was probably intended to present a more printable piece, which it does. The variation separates the griffin, the shield, and the banner from their positions on the Benjamin version. In doing so, the continuity of the images is lost. This design has appeared in Memorial Union publications from time to time. The designer is unknown.



Seventh Seal Design

Seventh Seal Design

1947, Seventh design
The seventh design was by Bruce Rogers. His suggestion for this design to the new university president, Fredrick L. Hovde, was never considered. Though Rogers’ seal designs did not meet with approval, his career was internationally distinguished by his work in type and book design. Many of his original works can be found in Archives and Special Collections at Purdue.

Eighth Purdue Seal Design

Eighth Purdue Seal Design

1947, Eighth Design
The eighth design, commissioned by Robert W. Babcock, was an attempt to simplify the Rogers design. Babcock was the editor of Campus Copy, a university publication. He printed the commissioned work along with the Rogers and Benjamin designs in the March 1947 issue of the Campus Copy to elicit faculty opinion. In the end the University continued using the Benjamin seal.


1968, Current Design

1968 Design


1968, Ninth & Current Design
Al Gowan was an Assistant Professor of the then new School of Creative Arts when he received a grant to develop a new University seal. His research resulted in a more stylized design. He redefined the seal’s concept, yet maintained a faithfulness to the calligraphic style of the Lytle seal of 1895. Rather than defining the curriculum, which is subject to change, Gowan felt the seal should represent the three permanent aims of the university: education, research, and service.


MSP 119, Collection on the Purdue University seal, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

MSF 474, Albert J. Gowan papers, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Horoho, M. (1993). Purdue Crest: a visual history. Valparaiso, IN: Sandlin’s Books & Bindery