Purdue Club holds first fundraiser in three years

The Purdue Club of Jackson County held its first fundraiser since 2019 on Thursday night.

The event featured a guest speaker, auctions and a dinner.

Money raised from the event, held at Pewter Hall in Brownstown, went toward local scholarships that go to students planning to attend Purdue University.

Terrye Davidson welcomed approximately 100 people who attended the event after two years of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re here tonight to celebrate our love, loyalty and continuing support for Purdue University,” she said. “I believe Jackson County is a perfect example of the Purdue Alumni Association’s motto: Loyalty lives here.”

The club was started in the late 1980s when a group of Purdue graduates learned that there were more than 500 alumni that lived in Jackson County around that time, Davidson said.

Since 2008, the Purdue Club of Jackson County has awarded more than $70,000 in scholarship money to Jackson County students.

Davidson read a quote from an open letter published by Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University.

“Each time I am around Purdue alumni, I am struck by the same inspiring reaction,” Daniels said. “Their stories of great accomplishments, great careers, great lives led almost never began with privileged origins. Overwhelmingly, Boilermakers have come from the small towns, the inner cities, the farms, places where any head start they got more likely stemmed from the values they absorbed than from any great material advantage.”

In the letter, Daniels said Purdue had a record-breaking freshman class of 10,191 students, the largest of any school in the Big Ten.

The president and former Indiana governor said “the single best indicator of (Purdue’s) strengthening reputation” was when the school was named one of Fast Company magazine’s “Brands That Matter” with Ford, Nike, McDonald’s and 3M. Purdue was the only university on the magazine’s list.

Club members Bill and Betty Baute were recognized for their dedication and work to the group with a painting that featured sheep, which are prominent on their farm.

Aaron Whalen, a sales manager for Ag Alumni Seed, gave a guest speech about his organization’s research on popcorn genetics and other seeds like oats, wheat, soybeans and sorghum.

Ag Alumni Seed is a nonprofit organization, a leader in the popcorn genetics research, and the world’s leading supplier of popcorn hybrid seeds. They sell popcorn seed to more than 40 countries on six continents.

“It’s a very niche industry, but we’re a small company with a really big footprint,” Whalen said.

The organization was started in 1938 as Agricultural Alumni Seed Improvement Association Inc. with the purpose of providing newly developed crops and farming technologies to farmers on behalf of Purdue.

In response to the university losing out on crops due to private sector farms dominating grain and seed crop industries, Ag Alumni Seed started licensing popcorn genetics in 1995. It has been selling and developing new popcorn seed hybrids since then.

Whalen said the organization is able to support Purdue in a functional sense by doing research on popcorn seed genetics and also by providing funding earned from seed sales and licensing agreements to the university.

He said Ag Alumni Seed had a breakthrough in 2021 after creating a dhurrin-free sorghum, a crop typically used for grazing.

Sorghum produces a chemical compound dhurrin, also called hydrogen cyanide, when animals chew on the crop. Dhurrin can kill herds of cattle, so Mitch Tuinstra, a professor for Purdue University, developed a sorghum that blocked pathways from producing it.

Research showed that animals preferred grazing on dhurrin-free sorghum, and Ag Alumni Seed created a license agreement with Texas-based S and C Seed Co., the world’s largest sorghum seed company, for use of the crop. This agreement generates revenue to go toward research done at Purdue.

Of all of the popcorn eaten in the entire world, Whalen estimated 60% of it has Purdue genetics inside of it.

A flag commemorating the Purdue Club of Jackson County.

Mitchell Banks

Bill Baute, top left, and Betty Baute, bottom left, are presented with a painting for their dedication to the Purdue Club of Jackson County from Dale Siefker, middle left, and Mary Lou Siefker.

Mitchell Banks

Terrye Davidson gives a speech welcoming everyone back to the Purdue Club of Jackson County’s first fundraiser since 2019.

Mitchell Banks

Aaron Whalen, a sales manager for Ag Alumni Seed, speaks to the Purdue Club of Jackson County about his organization’s work on popcorn genetics.

Mitchell Banks