BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE ATHLETICS
Ryan Walters is learning a lot about Greater Lafayette when he’s not performing his duties as Purdue University’s 37th head football coach.
It’s been a whirlwind lifestyle since Dec. 14, 2022, when Walters was introduced to the community during a press conference at the Kozuch Football Performance Complex.
“When I was offered the job, I jumped at it without really knowing about the community,” Walters says. “When I got here and got to see the facilities, got to see campus and got to go out in the community … every day I’ve been blown away by the support, by the family atmosphere.
“My family can’t wait to get here. We’ve bought a lot here in (West Lafayette) and we’re building a place.”
For now, Walters and his family – wife Tara and sons Aaron and Cason – will live in a rental home. But while the family was still living in Champaign, Illinois, Walters had plenty of opportunities to explore Greater Lafayette.
“I’ve gone out and tried different restaurants,” he says. “I’ve been to some sporting events here in town. I got a chance to catch a Pacers game in Indy. I went to the mall. I’ve been able to get around (Greater Lafayette), which is why I’m getting more and more excited every day.”
Walters replaces Jeff Brohm, who departed for his alma mater Louisville after guiding Purdue to its first Big Ten Conference West Division championship in 2022. To many Boilermaker fans, Brohm’s departure was a matter of time after earlier flirtations with his hometown school and the University of Tennessee during his six-year stint.
With his rapid rise on the college football coaching ladder, starting with a student assistant role at his alma mater Colorado in 2009, Walters says he hopes Purdue is his final coaching stop in a journey that has taken him to Arizona, Oklahoma, North Texas, Memphis, Missouri and Illinois.
“It is nice to be at my age and where I’m at in this profession and feel like I landed a destination job,” Walters says. “I’m over the moon appreciative over the opportunity to lead this program. I want my kids, who are 9 and soon to be 7, when they grow up I want them to say they’re from West Lafayette.
“I plan on being here a long time, as long as they’ll have me. There will be adversity at times. That is guaranteed in life, right? But I’ll promise you we’ll do everything we can to attack that and overcome that adversity with great attitude and with maximum effort to win championships here.
“There’s no excuse why this place can’t have sustained success and compete and win championships at the highest level.”
Having turned 37 on Jan. 21, Walters is the fourth-youngest coach in major college football behind Kenny Dillingham of Arizona State (32), Kane Wommack of South Alabama (35) and Dan Lanning of Oregon (36).
In addition to being the youngest Purdue head coach since 28-year-old Cecil Isbell in 1944, Walters comes to West Lafayette with a defensive coaching background on his resume. Not since Leon Burtnett was promoted from defensive coordinator in 1981 has Purdue hired a head coach who didn’t have a history of coaching offense.
This past season, Walters was named the 247Sports Defensive Coordinator of the Year and On3 Coordinator of the Year. His Illinois unit was first nationally in scoring defense (12.3) and second in yards allowed per game (263.8).
Purdue hasn’t led the Big Ten in scoring defense since 1959.
Walters wasn’t always defensive minded in his football career. Before switching to safety during his playing days at Colorado from 2004-08, Walters was a quarterback.
Like his Purdue basketball counterpart Matt Painter, Walters seemed destined to become a head coach.
“That’s a good comparison if it holds true,” Walters said when told Naismith Hall of Fame basketball coach Gene Keady knew Painter was a future head coach during his playing days in the early 1990s.
“The coaches I had in college would always say, ‘You should think about getting into coaching when your playing days are done.’
“I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
For whatever reason, as a player the Xs and Os made sense to me. I don’t know if it was because I had the quarterback background prior to playing defense. Once I started learning the defensive side of the ball it just kind of made sense.”
Walters is used to being among the youngest coaches on his previous staffs, but he’s older than five of his 10 assistant coaches, whose ages range from 26 to 56.
“I have had a quick rise in this profession because one, I enjoy it,” he says. “I enjoy the relationships. I enjoy the creativity and I enjoy the challenge and the pressure and the nature of this job. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
A side benefit to having a younger coaching staff is being able to relate to today’s athletes.
“My job as a coach is to put them in the best position to go play fast, go play free and go have fun while still instilling discipline and accountability throughout the program,” Walters says.
“I think the way that is communicated is easier because of my age. We probably listen to the same music. I can get on a video game and play a video game with them. The way we speak and the lingo is still similar. Hopefully, when I’m 50 years old and still in this profession I can maintain that.”
Walters doesn’t fit the coaching stereotype in another way. You won’t hear stories of Walters sleeping in his office or putting in 16-hour days. Family comes first.
“This job requires a lot of your time,” he says. “I think time is the most valuable commodity on this planet. So I’ve got time to get away. I like to spend that time with my family on vacation. We usually go to Hawaii every year for an extended period of time.”
The Walters family loves Hawaii so much their two dogs are named Maui and Kona.
Walters also insists his assistant coaches balance football with family.
“I’ve been a part of staffs where you sort of burn the candle on both ends,” he says. “You get diminishing returns if you do that, I think. I think sometimes people get stuck in ‘This is how we’ve always done it so this is how we have to do it’ instead of changing with the technology and the times.
“To me it’s important to give myself and my staff time to be fathers and be husbands, be available to your family. I think balance keeps you hungry, keeps you energized and can give you a better perspective on what is required and what is conducive to having a healthy environment in your program.”
It’s been more than 90 years since the last time a winning football coach at Purdue was followed by another successful coach. In 1929, James Phelan left for the University of Washington after leading Purdue to an undefeated season and a Big Ten Conference championship. His successor, Noble Kizer, won two more Big Ten championships and went 42-13-3 from 1930 to 1936 before illness forced him to give up coaching.
Since Jack Mollenkopf retired following the 1969 season with an 84-39-9 record, only three Purdue head coaches have had winning resumes. Jim Young went 38-19-1 from 1977 to 1981, Joe Tiller was 87-62 from 1997 to 2008, and Brohm recorded a 36-34 mark from 2017 to 2022.
So, how will Walters buck that historical trend?
“I know this place is not a rebuild job,” he says. “They’ve had success. So my job is to find areas where we can improve and do whatever I can to improve those areas. The areas that have been successful, make sure those stay successful and try to elevate that standard.
“I’ve always operated with a chip on my shoulder because of my age and my football background. My dad is not a coach. I didn’t have a long career in the NFL. I didn’t play at a ‘logo school’ per se. So, I’ve prided myself on my work ethic, my ability to enhance my talent in this profession. I think that my competitive spirit will continue to influence this building and the people that are coaching and playing, the support staff and all those areas to continue the success that Purdue has seen in recent years.”
Walters will get a chance to make a good first impression on Purdue fans. Four of his first five games as head coach will be played in Ross-Ade Stadium. Fresno State, coming off a 10-4 season in 2022, comes to West Lafayette for the Sept. 2 season opener.
Following a trip to Virginia Tech on Sept. 9, the Boilermakers host Syracuse on Sept. 16, a nationally televised game with Wisconsin on Sept. 22 and a reunion with his former boss, Bret Bielema, and Illinois on Sept. 30.
What should fans expect to see that first month of the season?
“You’re going to see a team that is going to be playing fanatically, playing fast; a team that loves to play the game and plays it the right way,” Walters says. “We’re going to be competitive. We’re going to be tough. We’re going to be disciplined.
“Offensively, we’re going to score points. We’re going to throw the ball around. Graham Harrell and his track record with developing quarterbacks and skill players speaks for itself. I’m going to piggyback what the new Colts coach says. We’re going to throw the ball to score points and we’re going to run the ball to win games.
“Defensively, we’re going to confuse and harass the quarterback. We’re going to generate turnovers and limit explosive plays. We’re going to play smart football. More games are lost than they are won and so we are going to pay attention to the things that can potentially get you beat, like penalties, mental errors and turnovers.” ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
On a warm spring day, Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski left his office in City Hall to check on the progress of the new Public Safety Center on Columbia Street.
“The new sign was up,” Roswarski recalls. “It made me feel like, ‘This is a big city.’ That looked impressive.”
“Impressive” is just one of many adjectives used to describe the spacious home of the Lafayette Police Department.
“Cleaner, bigger,” was Chief of Police Scott Galloway’s assessment.
“Challenging,” says Tom Morlan, senior project manager for Kettelhut Construction, Inc.
“State of the art,” adds Dan McCloskey, senior project architect for American Structurepoint, Inc.
Let’s start with “challenging,” a word also used by McCloskey when describing the task of turning Roswarski’s vision into a building that reflects a forward-thinking, growing community while also honoring the historical context of downtown Lafayette into reality.
How do you design a building to meet the growing needs of a police department while making it welcoming for the public that helped pay for the $51 million project?
“This was accomplished by providing secure parking for police officers and staff, designing bullet-resistant barriers that are not perceptible to the general public, creating accessible, welcoming public spaces that offer opportunities for officers and the community to interact, and many other aspects that create a safe environment for staff and visitors,” McCloskey says.
If that seems simple, it wasn’t.
“American Structurepoint and Architects Design Group had to design the building for a variety of visitors, including people who are victims of crime that are seeking assistance from the police,” McCloskey says. “For example, a safe room is located near the first floor entrance where people can seek immediate assistance from police personnel. There is also a separate victims’ advocate entrance with soft spaces … that are welcoming with calming colors, lighting and furniture that evoke a sense of working together for families and children that need a safe, comfortable space in which to interact with police staff.”
Roswarski also insisted on spaces that would permit more than just police business.
A community room on the second floor that can accommodate up to 100 guests. An outdoor plaza with a pergola and seating area for live entertainment and movie screenings. All are accessible by an outside set of steps so that it won’t be necessary to go through the police department.
“We want it to be like Riehle Plaza, another community gathering space,” Roswarski says. “We want people to come down to the amenity deck, sit out there and eat their lunch.”
McCloskey’s firm also designed solar panels, installed by Lafayette’s Huston Solar, to offset a portion of the Public Safety Center’s energy use. The building also is home to electric charging stations and a green roof area with lush plantings, lawns and pavers.
It would take 23 months and approximately 300,000 manhours, Morlan estimates, for Kettelhut to construct the Public Safety Center. The first step was demolition of existing buildings and preserving the brick façade from the old Horner Building.
“We … took it apart brick by brick by brick and then rebuilt it,” Roswarski says. “The bricks were numbered. We couldn’t save the building, but we wanted to save a piece of that history and remember a piece of that history. That was the level of commitment that we went to to make sure what we did really was good for downtown also.”
Another historical era was unearthed by Kettelhut workers early in the construction process. The Dryfus Theatre once resided on the site before the opera house was destroyed in a 1914 fire.
“At the time, much of the debris was buried within the footprint of the old building,” Morlan says. “During excavation of the site there were some unplanned delays for removal of unsuitable debris left from the fire.”
Kettelhut also dealt with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. That included supply chain and logistics challenges, material fabrication delays and labor shortages.
One more challenge noticed by the Greater Lafayette community was the restrictions imposed on Sixth and Seventh streets.
“The building footprint essentially took up the entire property,” Morlan says. “A lot of coordination with neighbors, community and city departments was required to move all the materials, people and equipment onto the property over several years.”
“State of the art”
Part of American Structurepoint’s design included crime prevention technology. The Analysis and Response Center (ARC) is the hub of the Lafayette Police Department’s special operations division and criminal intelligence.
“With real-time access to city-operated security cameras and police body cams, officers in the ARC can respond to criminal activity and monitor major events efficiently,” McCloskey says.
The needs of law enforcement have changed since Roswarski joined the Lafayette Police Department more than 40 years ago.
“We basically had three radio channels – F1, F2 and ‘Eileen,’ which connected us to the state,” says Roswarski, who rose through the ranks to captain before winning his first term as mayor in 2003.
“When we look at the ability to be more efficient, when we look at the ability to use technology, whether it’s in dispatch, whether it’s in the ARC, whether it’s the way we are able to process property, evidence, bar coding, all those types of things … hopefully it will make the officer’s job easier, make it more efficient, less stressful.”
Roswarski believes the technology will allow officers to actually patrol the streets and interact with the citizens they’ve sworn to protect.
Galloway could barely contain his excitement when giving a tour of the Public Safety Center shortly before the May 24 dedication ceremony.
“For a city our size, this is the most technologically advanced and largest police department (facility) in the country,” Galloway says. “This is a tip of the hat to how much the city and our community respects and wants to have good public safety.”
Galloway hopes that the Public Safety Center could be a recruiting tool. At the time of its grand opening, the Lafayette Police Department was 30 officers shy of a full force.
“If you go to a football recruit and you’re between two schools, what the training room looks like and the weight room looks like matters,” says Galloway, whose force includes former Central Catholic and Purdue standout Danny Anthrop.
“We think that if young people see this department and how much we care about our staff and policing, this could be a draw for people.”
The expansion of City Hall in 1995 included a renovation of the police department spaces.
“We outgrew that building before it opened,” Galloway says. “People were doubled up in offices. I knew this even as a rookie officer: that building was not constructed to be a police department. It’s not safe.”
Like so many of us who have more stuff than space, the Lafayette Police Department had to find ways around that problem. The training center at 1301 South St. became “a hub,” Galloway says.
“If you are familiar with ‘Apollo 13,’ I considered that our LM (Lunar Module). It helped us get to the point where we could have this building. This is a police department, not a renovated office building.”
Every time Galloway steps into his office, with an unobstructed view down Columbia Street to the Wabash River, he is reminded how far the police department has come from the cramped spaces across Sixth Street.
Galloway’s favorite aspect of the Public Safety Center is the Sally port, a concept that dates back to Great Britain in the 1600s. A Sally port is a secure, controlled entrance into an enclosure such as a prison or a fortification.
“As an officer I was so conscientious of somebody escaping from the car or getting in a fight in the middle of the road out here,” Galloway says. “I think that is an incredible advancement we didn’t have before. I love our guys being safe around suspects who could hurt them. The Sally port serves that.”
In addition to the ARC, Roswarski’s favorite part of the Public Safety Center is the dispatch center. The previous dispatch personnel were housed in the basement of City Hall. No windows. No natural light.
“That’s really the nerve center of the police department with all the calls coming in,” Roswarski says. “To get those folks into a new facility with new desks and some natural light is a huge win and very important.”
Looking to the future
With the police department now calling the Public Safety Center home, what will happen to the space it occupied in City Hall?
The fire command will depart its Fourth Street location and move into a remodeled first floor.
“For the first time in our history, we’ll have a true public safety campus,” Roswarski says. “The second story, we are going to do some remodeling. We are about out of space over here. This will create additional space for the engineer’s office, the city attorney and purchasing.”
Plans for the basement remain undecided.
Railroad Relocation was the signature legacy of six-term Mayor James Riehle, who served from 1971 to 1995. Will the Public Safety Center become most identified with Roswarski’s tenure?
“That’s an interesting comparison,” says Roswarski, who is seeking his sixth consecutive term in 2023. “Certainly in my mind it’s my largest project that we’ve done to this point and probably the most significant. We’ve built the baseball stadium. We’ve moved the Pearl River sewer. In the early 2000s we mined a tunnel underneath downtown 3,000 feet long, 30 feet in the ground, 10 foot in diameter. That was a very, very significant project.
“When I think back to even all of those, in my mind this is the most significant project. Being a retired police officer, it has a special place for me. I think that it’s one I’m going to look back on with the most pride.” ★
BY KAT BRAZ
[ INVESTING IN THE FUTURE WORKFORCE ]
Arconic Foundation, the philanthropic arm of one of the largest manufacturing companies in the region, invests in skill-building learning experiences that enhance individual opportunity, specifically within STEM education and manufacturing workforce development.
One initiative the foundation supports is Manufacturing Month, held in October. The interactive online portal launched by Greater Lafayette Commerce (GLC) teaches K-12 students about manufacturing and the wealth of career options available to them in the manufacturing sector.
The virtual experience complements Manufacturing Week, which includes in-person workshops, an expo at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds and tours of local manufacturing facilities, all geared to educate K-12 students about the vast opportunities and career pathways available to them.
“Arconic is a big supporter of Manufacturing Week,” says Scott Greeson, community advocate for the Arconic Foundation. “A number of years ago, the manufacturing industry began to see a shortage in the number of skilled workers. GLC and the mayor’s office wanted to develop a program to educate youth about careers in manufacturing, and Arconic jumped on board right away. Not only supporting Manufacturing Week but providing funding to convert those resources to an online format that instructors can access and integrate into their curriculum.”
Greeson held a number of jobs at Arconic before retiring in 2018 as a tool and die design engineer and transitioning to his role as community advocate for the foundation.
“I am very passionate about getting kids to realize that manufacturing is a respectable career path,” Greeson says, “that it is a good way to earn a living for your family, support your community as well as the entire state. With a little bit of planning, you can launch your career right out of high school and make an outstanding income from the get-go.”
Greater Lafayette Career Academy received funding from Arconic Foundation to outfit its makerspace, and the Lafayette Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship based in the Northend Community Center used grant money to furnish a computer lab.
“It’s not just about igniting a spark that leads someone to a career in manufacturing,” Greeson says. “It’s allowing kids to have access to the skills they need at the earliest possible age. Helping them to understand that they can use their hands and mind to create and build things that will make a difference in their community.”
[ PREVENTING YOUTH SUICIDE ]
In December 2021, North Central Health Services (NCHS) announced its commitment of more than $1.1 million in Preventing Youth Suicide grants and support to 12 school corporations throughout North Central Indiana. The grants will support schools in six counties launching evidence-based youth suicide prevention programs, reaching an anticipated 35,000 students by the 2024 school year.
“The schools will be working with an entity called Education Development Center (EDC), a global nonprofit that advances lasting solutions to improve education, promote health and expand economic opportunity,” says Stephanie Long, president and CEO of NCHS. “EDC is a national leader in the field of social and emotional learning, mental health and suicide prevention.”
In addition to grant funding for the program, participating school and district teams will receive support from EDC on how to integrate mental health within their education systems as well as technical assistance to provide schools with training and systems support to build robust evidence-based suicide prevention efforts. The program has six key components:
According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 in Indiana and the second leading cause of death for ages 25 to 35. Centers for Disease Control data indicate that Indiana suicide rates have increased along with suicidal ideation for youth 10 to 24.
“We looked at not only national data, but Indiana data and some local data from our schools indicating that students have felt extra stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Long says. “Our community needs health assessment completed in 2021 identified mental wellness as an area that could use some impact.”
The Preventing Youth Suicide grants expand on work many of the schools have done to implement social-emotional competency, drug resistance and mental well-being curriculums. Coupled with the Resilient Youth Initiative grants, NCHS has granted more than $7.3 million back into community schools to support their efforts to maintain a protective culture for children and youth.
“We’ve got excellent schools and educators in our community who are always striving to grow what they are doing,” Long says. “The Preventing Youth Suicide grants are an opportunity to provide them with necessary funding to support their work and connect them with experts in the mental health field.”
[ EXPANDING ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY ]
Students throughout the region have benefited from a three-year e-learning project that Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN) launched in November 2020. Coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic when many students were learning from home, the project has improved internet access in homes across WHIN’s 10-county service region to enhance e-learning opportunities.
“WHIN allocated $5 million from our Regional Cultivation Fund (RCF) to enhance e-learning throughout the region,” says Pat Corey, vice president of engagement for WHIN. “Thus far, we’ve awarded more than $1.3 million in grants, impacting about 27,000 students. And we expect to fund a whole lot more.”
Established five years ago through a nearly $40 million grant from Lilly Endowment, WHIN is a consortium of 10 counties in north-central Indiana (Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Warren and White) leading the adoption of digital technology with the aim of becoming the first recognized smart region in the nation.
“WHIN’s 10 counties form a living laboratory for advanced technology,” Corey says. “It’s a unique organization. There’s no other 501(c)(3) in the country that has accepted the challenge of accelerating digitalization. Indiana has a 20 percent gap in productivity in its advanced industry sector, and the country as a whole has an 80 percent gap in productivity in its agriculture sector. Closing those gaps is what’s going to keep Indiana competitive.”
Community Schools of Frankfort were awarded $157,000 from the RCF in February to equip school buses with hotspots, add hotspots to outdoor learning areas and help students with MiFi devices at home.
A $10,000 grant to Frontier School Corporation turned FFA land plots managed by partner school districts into digital agriculture testbeds and living labs for students, area farmers and ag businesses to experiment with data collection in practice.
MSD of Warren County School Corporation received a $105,000 planning grant to create a Department of Education-approved, dual-credit precision agriculture course and externship program for high school juniors and seniors. The curriculum will be made available to all WHIN school districts.
Another grant in the works at Benton Central Jr.-Sr. High School will develop coursework in sensor-based technologies to get students excited about careers in data. Once the pilot career builder program is complete, all the school corporations in the region will have access to the new resource for their students.
“Students don’t realize that the world of big data is here, and they need to be ready for it,” Corey says. ★