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Purdue University. Army ROTC


biographical statement

As a land grant university, Purdue has been required to teach military tactics since its founding. Purdue’s first Professor of Military Science and Tactics, Civil War veteran Dr. Harvard Wiley, was appointed in 1876. Despite offering classes on military tactics, Purdue didn’t have an organized military structure until 1888, when 1st Lieutenant Pickering was appointed by the Army as Professor of Military Science at Purdue. Under Pickering, the first Corps of Cadets was formed at Purdue, consisting of 76 infantrymen and 16 artillerymen. The Corps’ equipment at the time consisted of 100 Springfield rifles and 2 cannons.

Beginning in 1891, Purdue required all male underclassmen to undergo mandatory military training, as had been stipulated in the Land Grant College Act (Morrill Act). In 1902, Captain Ira Reeves was Professor of Military Science at Purdue, and began reorganizing the then 419-man Corps. His final structure included two battalions of infantry, one battery of artillery, a company of engineers, a signal corps detachment, a hospital corps detachment, and a 40-piece band. It was also around this time that the Purdue artillery became part of the Indiana Militia.

In June 1916, Battery B of the Indiana Field Artillery, which included the Purdue artillery battery, was called up for service in the Mexican Border War by president Woodrow Wilson. They were stationed in Llano Grande, Texas until September 28, 1916, when they were recalled to Indiana and left federal service.

In 1919, following standards set by the 1916 National Defense Act, Purdue reorganized its Corps of Cadets into a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) specializing in Field Artillery. The 1541 cadets that were part of the program at the time were reorganized into five artillery regiments and a 25-piece band.

By 1924, Purdue had 1214 cadets, twelve French 75mm cannons, and three 155mm howitzers. Enrollment peaked in 1941, when there were 2354 cadets at Purdue. Between World War One and World War Two, 1/8 of all Reserve Artillery officers were trained at Purdue ROTC.

From 1946 to 1949, Purdue ROTC added additional course offerings to Field Artillery, including Ordinance, Air Corps, Transportation, Engineering, Signal, and Chemical branches. The Air Corps program would later develop into Purdue’s Air Force ROTC program.

In 1966, enrollment in the Purdue ROTC became optional for underclassmen. Women were allowed to enroll in the ROTC beginning in 1973. Purdue won the MacArthur Award for best ROTC unit in the nation in 1989 and 1997.


"Purdue University Army ROTC History," Purdue Army ROTC website, accessed February 6, 2024.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Lloyd E. Keck scrapbook

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSA 303
Scope and Contents The Lloyd E. Keck scrapbook documents the academic, military, personal and social activities of an Engineering student while on Purdue University's campus from 1936-1939, as well as various aspects of his life prior to college from 1917-1936. Keck titled the scrapbook, "Scraps and Snaps, May 27, 1917 - August 1, 1939," but most of the content is from his time at Purdue, 1936-1939.The scrapbook contains many unique photographs of campus and events from the 1930s. Some of the events...
Dates: 1917 - 1939; Majority of material found within 1937 - 1939