The CEO of General Electric (GE) surprised President Mitch Daniels and the audience by donating $100,000 to Purdue.
Thursday’s conversation with Daniels and Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, centered around the future of GE and its role in the Purdue community. The lecture, hosted by Loeb Playhouse, was open to the public, and a majority of the audience comprised of GE staff, students and West Lafayette residents.
The audience responded enthusiastically throughout the discussion, constantly applauding for Immelt and his work at GE.
The discussion started off with an introduction from Daniels, “I not only skipped my workout, I put on a coat and tie; this is a big deal, and so is our guest.”
All jokes aside, Daniels began by pointing out that GE is a, “very frequent employer of Purdue grads.” According to Daniels, GE has more employees from Purdue than any other university.
“There’s a certain culture that Purdue has, that people are inherently curious ... you have a sense that when (you) graduate from here you’re not ending your career, you’re really beginning it,” Immelt explained.
Daniels and Immelt also examined Immelt’s time at GE and the company’s role as a conglomerate in the international community.
Daniels asked about Immelt’s belief that manufacturing has become digitized, decentralized and democratized. Immelt responded, “The nature of products [has] changed, the nature of labor relations has changed ... the world we live in today, you can make almost anything almost anywhere ... The future’s going to be about smaller factories, more technically driven.”
One audience member sought advice for university students looking for professional work. Immelt responded with four key points: First, pick a domain you want to be good at: “Think deep first, broad second.” Next, find an initiative within the company; this provides training and potential new skills. Third, seek out a good boss, and fourth, manage your time well.
Immelt’s final advice was, “With a good degree from a school like this you can take personal risk.”
The discussion ended with the presentation of a 3D picture of a model of Neil Armstrong’s steps on the moon with the GE and Purdue logos placed above as a gift to Immelt.