Wayne Townsend was not only a political leader in Indiana where he was a force in the Democratic Party that culminated in his run for governor in 1984, and not only a loyal and committed Boilermaker, he was a champion and supporter of the Purdue University Libraries. Wayne Townsend passed away at age 89 earlier this month.
Wayne Townsend and I first met when I was confirmed as Dean of Libraries by the Board of Trustees in July, 2004 in Fort Wayne. When I learned he was from Hartford City, Indiana, I asked him if he knew a cousin of mine, an attorney, Bill Ervin. He turned, and gave me his characteristic warm, big smile, and said, “Bill Ervin was my best friend.” When I told him I was Bill’s cousin, he looked at me, and then said, “If you are anything like Bill, you will be a great dean.” Bill Ervin had passed away a few years prior to this conversation.
At the time of my introduction to Wayne he was a member of the Board of Trustees, however, that summer his term ended. Therefore, I asked him if he would agree to serve on the Libraries Dean’s Advisory Council (DAC). He said not only would he be interested, but Helen, his wife and Purdue graduate, would also be willing and interested in serving. He said, “You will get two for the price of one.” How could I say no? They served for five years on the DAC from 2004-2009.
During their DAC years, Wayne and Helen offered sage advice about understanding the thinking of Hoosiers (in this instance, the residents of Indiana) and Boilermakers specifically. He was a champion of the consolidation of the archives and special collections into one space and was a generous donor to Libraries’ projects.
My wife, Kathy, and I hosted Wayne and Helen at a football game this past fall. Although I was shocked at the decline in his health, the positive, humorous and frank personality that Wayne was known for was still very evident.
In my position as dean I have the opportunity to meet many outstanding people, but several stand out among them for their sincerity, joy in living and love for Purdue. Wayne was one of those people. I will always treasure having known him.