Seizing the moment, meeting the challenge

On April 29, on what would have been the seventh annual Purdue Day of Giving, Jim and Georgianne Parshall took this year’s theme of “Meet the Challenge” to heart. Little did they know what that challenge would turn out to be when they marked April 29 on their calendars months earlier.

Parshall, director of Digital Health & Devices External Innovation for Eli Lilly and Company, earned his master’s degree from Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and had planned to give to his alma mater during the 24-hour online-based fundraising event as he had the year before. Furthermore, the Parshalls’ two children—son Evan, a senior, and daughter Riley, a sophomore—were thriving as Purdue students. Life was good, and the family was “ever grateful.”

But by March, the magnitude of the global coronavirus pandemic became increasingly evident, and the Purdue community mobilized to prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and guests. 

Among the many adaptations required by adversity, the University postponed Purdue Day of Giving. At the same time, new giving opportunities were introduced to address the disruptions and specific needs posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It was then Jim and Georgianne determined how they would seize the opportunity to meet the challenge.

“Purdue was very kind in refunding some of Riley’s housing costs, but we felt that the University needed that money far more than we did,” Jim said. “Georgianne and I knew the University would be struggling like every organization in these very uncertain times, so we decided to support COVID-19 related initiatives. And we felt the original Purdue Day of Giving was still the right time to donate.” 

In addition to their annual gift to ECE, the Parshalls added donations to three funds directly related to Purdue’s COVID-19 response: the Coronavirus Research Fund, the Safe Campus Initiative, and the Critical Need Fund-Disaster and Emergency Assistance, specifically for those students whose life and income were hit hardest by loss of income and access to remote-learning opportunities. 

“It seemed like the right thing to do at the right time to make an immediate impact,” he added. A Lilly matching gift program augmented the Parshalls’ gifts. All COVID-19 related giving opportunities are now incorporated in the Protect Purdue Initiative to support the safe reopening of campus this fall.

Jim reports that both Evan and Riley are ready to return to their on-campus education and activities. Unfortunately, Evan had his study abroad program with Purdue’s Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education (GEARE) international work experience program cut short. He had to be repatriated from Medellín, Colombia, much earlier than his expected plans to stay until August. 

Daughter Riley had a good but abbreviated freshman year and is eager to move into her sorority house. She’s also planning to serve as a Boiler Gold Rush team leader in August to orient new students to the Purdue campus and traditions. One of those traditions is that a Boilermakers embracing difficulties as a challenge to meet head on.

Boilermakers will also have opportunities to “Meet the Challenge” when the rescheduled Purdue Day of Giving takes place on September 9, 2020.

To contribute to Protect Purdue, visit crowdfunding.purdue.edu/protectpurdue.

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