Purdue University and West Lafayette celebrated a master bridge builder, Victor “Vic” Lechtenberg, whose service to Indiana and beyond spanned more than four decades. Lechtenberg, who has held more leadership positions at Purdue than perhaps anyone else, officially retired on March 1. “Vic has been a great scholar and also a dynamic problem solver who has operated quietly, often out of the limelight, to make Purdue an engine for Indiana’s economic development,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels.
The university celebrated Lechtenberg during a private event where he received the Order of the Griffin, one of Purdue’s highest honors, which is presented to individuals whose commitment and service to the university go well beyond the call of duty and whose strength and vision have greatly benefited the institution.
The city of West Lafayette, in recognition of his contributions, also proclaimed June 8 as “Vic Lechtenberg Day.”
Lechtenberg began his career as a professor of agronomy and served as dean of agriculture (1993-2004) and vice provost for engagement (2004-11). He also was the person to whom the university turned twice to fill vacancies on an interim basis while searches were underway for provost and vice president for government relations. In his parting role at Purdue, he was director of the Center for Purdue Regional Development and special assistant to the president.
“Lechtenberg served under six Purdue presidents and knows the university and the state of Indiana better than almost anyone,” said university trustee John Hardin. “I would be hard-pressed to find any Indiana leader more respected and appreciated than he is.”
In recognition, Lechtenberg received the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s 2009 Accelerate Indiana Award. He was recognized as the IEDC’s best resource for connecting the worlds of higher education and business. At Purdue, Lechtenberg received the inaugural Morrill Award recognizing his career achievements.
Lechtenberg grew up on a general livestock farm in Butte, Nebraska, and he earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska in 1967 and his doctorate from Purdue in 1971. He never left. The future dean joined the Purdue faculty as crop science professor, focusing his research on forage and biomass crops.
From 1982 to 1993, Lechtenberg served as associate director of agricultural research programs and as executive associate dean. That job entailed serving as liaison between agricultural researchers and funding sources, as well as reviewing research proposals from academic departments.
As dean of Purdue Agriculture, Lechtenberg administered the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service, which has a presence in all of the state’s 92 counties, and Office of Academic Programs, Office of Agricultural Research Programs and International Programs in Agriculture. Purdue Cooperative Extension includes the 4-H Youth Development program, which reaches more than 200,000 young people annually in Indiana.
During his time at Purdue, Lechtenberg helped communities around the state develop technology parks and promote the growth of high-paying jobs. He also advanced initiatives such as the Technical Assistance Program.
In 2005 he founded, and later he led, the Purdue Center for Regional Development, which connects the interests within the sprawling web of regional economies that can often spread haphazardly, regardless of boundaries found on a map.
The center also sometimes develops and leads grant-funded initiatives. In 2007, for example, the center led a $15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant given to a 14-county area that included Tippecanoe County. The program provided 21st century job training to more than 16,000 workers. More than 3,600 were placed in new jobs in fields that employ science, technology, engineering or math.
Other programs supervised by Lechtenberg during his time at the university included the Office for Continuing Education and Conferences; Opportunity for Indiana, a statewide initiative to fight brain drain; and Science Bound, which assists Indianapolis Public Schools students in preparing for a science-related degree at Purdue..S. Department of Agriculture’s national Agricultural Research, Extension, Education and Economics Advisory Board from 1996 to 2002. In that capacity, he provided written testimony on biosecurity for the U.S. Senate. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America. He is a past president of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, an organization of 30 scientific societies and associations relating to agriculture. Lechtenberg is a member of several academic, professional and scholarly societies and has written nearly 150 technical papers, approximately 50 abstracts and six chapters in books.
Lechtenberg served as chair of the U