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Hansen, Arthur G.



  • Existence: February 28, 1925 - July 5, 2010

Biographical Information

Arthur Gene Hansen, scientist, professor, administrator, and president was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin on February 28, 1925. Hansen, the eighth president of Purdue, was the first president that was also an alumnus. After high school he joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as a second lieutenant during World War II. He was sent to Purdue under the V12 program, the U.S. Navy’s officers training program. Hansen received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1946 and his M.S. in Mathematics in 1948, both from Purdue University. During his days at Purdue he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, and while a graduate student he was also an instructor in mathematics. In 1949-50 he attended the University of Maryland, but completed his Ph.D. at the Case Institute of Technology in 1958.

From 1948 to 1957 Hansen worked as an Aeronautical Research Scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio. During this time he taught mathematics at the University of Maryland as an instructor from 1949-1950. He also taught evening graduate mathematics classes at John Carroll University of Cleveland, Ohio from 1956 to 1957 and evening mathematics classes at Baldwin Wallace College of Berea, Ohio from 1957 to 1958. From 1958-59 Hansen headed the Nucleonics section of the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory of Buffalo, New York.

In 1959 he arrived at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor as an associate professor of mechanical engineering, and in 1961 he was promoted to full professor. He was the chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan from 1965 to 1966. He remained at the University of Michigan until 1966. While at Michigan he acted as a research consultant for the Deming Division of the Crane Company of Salem, Ohio (1961-64); a consultant and lecturer for the Fairbanks, Morse, and Company of Kansas City, Missouri (1963-65); special lecturer for the Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan, 1964-65; a a consultant for the Proctor and Gamble Company of Cincinnati, Ohio (1964); a Senior Research Engineer for the Douglas Aircraft Corporation of Long Beach, California (1964); a curriculum consultant to the General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan (1965); and an engineering consultant to the Whirlpool Corporation of Benton Harbor, Michigan (1965-70). During the first half of 1965, Hansen was also a visiting professor of mechanical engineering at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama.

In 1966 he became the Dean of the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. He remained in this position until 1969 when he became the Institute’s president. He continued as president until 1971. During this time he acted as a curriculum consultant for the Universidad de Carabobo, Venezuela.

Hansen arrived at Purdue University in 1971 to assume the role of president of the university, taking over from Frederick L. Hovde. Hansen focused much of his energies on developing relationships with students and building the initial foundation for the university's fundraising efforts. In 1972 he founded the President's Council, an organization of those who financially support the university. In 1980 he launched the most ambitious capital improvements and endowment fund drive in the institution’s history up to that point, called the Plan for the Eighties, which was completed in September of 1981. He proved to be one of the University’s most popular presidents and he was noted for an open-door policy, where he made himself available to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the University.

Under Hansen's administration, enrollment increased from 26,000 to more than 32,000, and new buildings were constructed for agriculture, psychology, life sciences and athletics. Hansen also supported the establishment of Purdue's first Black Cultural Center and the university's first retirees association in 1976.

A decade after he left Purdue, when asked for the highlight of his Purdue presidency, Hansen responded quickly, "When I bought that supercomputer for Michael." It was Purdue's first supercomputer and one of only a handful the country. Purdue professor Michael Rossmann went on to use the supercomputer to become the first to map the structure of the common cold virus.

He resigned as president of Purdue University to become Chancellor of Texas A and M University. He served in that capacity until 1986, when he left this post to become the director of research of the Hudson Institute and an educational consultant until his retirement. His final day as president of Purdue University was June 30th 1982.

Purdue honored him by naming the Arthur G. Hansen Life Sciences Research Building in his honor. He, in turn, honored Purdue and his wife, Nancy Tucker Hansen, in 2002 by giving $1.8 million to build a proscenium theater, which now bears her name. The theater is part of Yue-Kong Pao Hall, home to Purdue's visual and performing arts.

Up to and including his time at Purdue he is known to have published at least forty papers on fluid mechanics and applied mathematics as well as over half a dozen monographs.

His professional activity included being a member of the National Academy of Engineering Council, the Advisory Board for the U.S. Department of Energy Research and Development, the Academy Advancement Board of the U.S. Naval Academy (1975-1979), the American Society for Engineering Education, and the Board of Visitors of the Air University (1974-1977) and the Air Force Institute of Technology (1987-1989). Hansen was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, president of the Indiana Conference of Higher Education, part of the Indiana Governor's Roundtable for K-12 education, and Chairman of the Indianapolis Symphony board.

He was an active and early voice in recognizing the need to recruit minorities in the field of engineering. Because of this, Hansen served on the board of trustees of the National Fund for Minority Engineering Students (1980-1981) and the board of directors of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc.

Other societies he was associated with include Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, and Sigma Xi.He was an honorary member of Pi Tau Sigma, ANAK (The ANAK Society of the Georgia Institute of Technology), Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Eta Sigma, Kappa Kappa Psi, and Alpha Kappa Psi. His honors included a Sigma Delta Chi Leather Medal (1977), Engineer of the Year Award from the City of Atlanta (1970), Indiana Engineer of the Year (1979), Purdue Distinguished Alumnus (1979), and a Distinguished Service Medal from the Department of Defense (1985). He was named in Who's Who in America, American Men and Women of Science, and received a Centennial Medallion from the American Society for Engineering and Education.

Hansen also served on the board of directors of four corporations; the American Electric Power Company, the Ball Corporation, the International Harvester, Company, and the International Paper Company.


UA 52, Arthur G. Hansen papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.


Arthur G. Hansen. Wikipedia. Accessed March 13, 2019.


Purdue University. "Dr. Arthur Gene Hansen, Purdue President Emeritus." Accessed March 15, 2021. Transformational%20Members%20History%20Makers/Hansen.html


National Academy of Engineering. "Dr. Arthur G. Hansen." Accessed March 15, 2021.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Eta Kappa Nu Beta Chapter records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 152
Scope and Contents The Eta Kappa Nu Beta Chapter records (1894-2014) document more than a century of student life and activities of the honor society of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. The collection consists of annual reports, meeting minutes, photographs, photo slides and negatives, as well as video cassettes. Of particular interest might be the sub-series of graduating class composites, which frequently identifies the graduating students. Printed photographs of the graduating classes...
Dates: 1894 - 2014; Majority of material found within 1978 - 1999; Other: Records transferred: 3/29/2016

Video and Multimedia Production Services photos

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 148
Abstract Photographs, slides, and negatives documenting the activities of Purdue’s Video and Multimedia Production Services from 1956 to 1977.
Dates: 1956 - 1977; Majority of material found within 1960 - 1969