You are likely to see just about anything at the annual Purdue University Ag Alumni Fish Fry, even though it’s a much tamer version today than it was just a few decades ago. This year, there were no giant fake eagles hanging over the podium, ready to drop what birds drop on an unsuspecting dignitary. But there was Max Armstrong, riding down the center aisle during opening ceremonies on the back of the Boilermaker Extra-Special, piloted by members of the Reamer Club.
Armstrong was the special guest chosen to ride from the back of the auditorium to the stage area on the rear of the train this year. Armstrong, a well-known radio and TV ag broadcaster and a member of the Farm Progress team, served as master of ceremonies for the main event of this year’s fish fry at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. It featured a reunion of five deans of agriculture at Purdue, including the current dean.
Armstrong, a Hoosier native who grew up on a farm near Princeton in Gibson County, revealed how historic the moment was when he took his position as emcee for the keynote event.
“The five people on this stage represent the leadership of the Purdue College of Agriculture over a span of the past 32 years,” Armstrong told the crowd. “During that same period, we’ve had six U.S. presidents, 10 U.S. secretaries of Agriculture, seven Indiana governors and five presidents of Purdue University.
“One guy here today is on two of those lists,” Armstrong quipped. Mitch Daniels, Indiana governor from 2005 to 2013, has served as Purdue’s president since 2013.
The five deans included Bob Thompson, 1987-1993; Vic Lechtenberg, 1994-2004; Randy Woodson, 2004-08, Jay Akridge, 2009-17; and Karen Plaut, the current dean who followed Akridge. All five were in other positions at Purdue before becoming dean, and each one was involved in hiring their successor.
Look for information the deans shared in upcoming stories.