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It’s Never Too Late to Say, “Thank You”

THROUGH INDUSTRY, EDUCATION, AND PHILANTHROPY, Cindy Ehrlich’s family has already left a significant imprint on Purdue and the Greater Lafayette communities. But recently, through the celebration of her father’s 100th birthday, another layer of influence was brought to light.

Cindy is the daughter of Max and Eldred “Queenie” Hauk (d. 2019). Her father Max, born March 5, 1920, is a 1942 College of Agriculture graduate who had a lustrous career in education as well as farming. Cindy and her sister, Melinda, know him as a loyal, faithful, family protector, and provider with unwavering personal values. The sisters agree he is a great storyteller, which they fondly remember from their youth. His knack for storytelling also helped him connect with his students at Liberty Center High School in Indiana, where he taught science in the 1950s. An educator first, with farming as his second profession, he finished his career as the Assistant Superintendent for Bluffton Schools.

Although Cindy has passed her father’s work ethic and values on to her own children, she didn’t fully understand the breadth of his influence as an educator until an unexpected letter arrived for her father just days before his 100th birthday. Terrance Craig, one of Max’s former high school students, learned of his centennial celebration and wrote a letter thanking him for the significant influence Max had made in his life. In the letter, Terry shared that just two weeks before fall classes started in 1953, Max came to his house and spoke with him and his father. Max told him, “If you will go to college, I will take you to Purdue, get you enrolled, find you a place to live, and find you a job.” And that is exactly what he did—he walked Terry through registration, found him a place to live for five dollars a week, and secured him a job where he could eat a meal for every shift he worked. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Terry ended up transferring and receiving his bachelor’s degree from Ball State, but he credits Cindy’s father with changing the trajectory of his life. Terrance, now 85 years young, is a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who had an illustrious career handling USAF finance, planning, and budgeting for the Office of the Secretary of Defense—pretty distinguished work for a young man who had a job resealing gym floors before Max Hauk reached out to him.

Whether it’s time, talent, or treasure, it’s heartwarming to think about the trickle effect of a single person’s choice to give. In this case, the reward was revealed 67 years later. And while Cindy hadn’t known about this inspiring piece of her father’s history, she can’t say she was all that surprised as she knows her dad applies his hardworking values and can-do Boilermaker spirit to everything he does.

We are extremely thankful that Cindy, a former nurse and loving homemaker, has always carried Purdue close to her heart beginning with her father, through her alumnus husband Rod Ehrlich (d. 2018) who co-founded Wabash National, and most recently through her children, Carrie Ehrlich (BSIE ‘99) and Mark Ehrlich (BSME ‘06). During the Campaign for Purdue in the early 2000s, Cindy and Rod even served as parent chairs—helping to raise $29M exceeding their $10M goal. 

Cindy says, “It’s never too late for a thank you.” We couldn’t agree more. //

Writer:  Andrea Marfell, President’s Council Communications akmarfell@purdueforlife.org

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