3/5/14 Plaque donation in Herrick Laboratories

Despite the denial of Michael McCracken's original submitted language for an inscription that referenced God, a plaque remains in his parents' honor in Herrick Laboratories.

A Purdue alumnus’ inscription was approved to reference God on a plaque at the University without a lawsuit.

After controversy surrounded Dr. Michael McCracken and his wife’s inscription on a plaque in the newly-renovated Herrick Laboratories in Discovery Park, Purdue approved a new plaque with revised language on Wednesday.

“My wife and I are joyful that we’ve been able to reach a resolution on this matter with Purdue,” McCracken wrote in an email.

McCracken will be able to honor his parents, as well as mention God, with language that specifies the statement is from the viewpoint of the McCrackens and not the University.

The revised language reads as follows: “Dr. Michael McCracken: ‘To all those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions.’ Dr. Michael and Mrs. Cindy McCracken present this plaque in honor of Dr. William ‘Ed’ and Glenda McCracken and all those similarly inspired to make the world a better place.”

However, the University will be adding an additional plaque accompanying McCracken's which will clarify that his words are not the speech of Purdue and that the University is aware of its neutrality obligations by law.

In a statement emailed to The Exponent, McCracken and his wife said they believed fighting for the religious reference was important to do, but they still plan to keep donating to Purdue, as well as encouraging others to do the same.

“I believe that there are certain situations in life where one must decide if they are going to stand for their principles – regardless of whether or not it is the easiest or most convenient option,” McCracken wrote.

Amy Noah, vice president for development, wrote in an email that the university had been considering ways to accommodate McCracken’s wishes with the inscription since late January and that they are “very pleased to have achieved that outcome and remain grateful for his generosity.”

“Purdue’s initial response reflected our recognition of the legal requirement to remain neutral on matters of religion, but we were always sympathetic to his disappointment,” Noah wrote. “We certainly never intended to get into a disagreement with a valued donor or inadvertently expose Purdue to a potential legal crossfire.”

With the support of the legal counsel at the Liberty Institute and Covington & Burling LLP, McCracken was able to avoid this legal crossfire while still upholding his religious convictions.

“Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of freedom of speech and religious freedoms, yet recognized their dependence on God. In a society that now seems to fear even mentioning God, I hope that we can remember what this great nation was founded upon and for which tens of thousands have died,” McCracken wrote.

According to Shelley Triol, a University spokeswoman, the new plaque with the revised language will be installed in Herrick Laboratories sometime after Purdue’s spring break.

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