In April 2018, Jonathan Purvis joined Butler University as Vice President for University Advancement. A respected leader in higher education advancement with 20 years of experience, Purvis came to Butler from Indiana University where he served as Vice President for Development and Regional Campuses. In a recent interview, he reflects on his first year with Butler and the challenges ahead.
Beyond the new academic buildings rising on campus, past the hallways filled with hammering sounds of renovations in Jordan Hall’s basement, Butler University’s future is unfolding in a single-window office with high ceilings.
There, Jonathan Purvis finishes up an email before the University breaks for the end of 2018, which has been the first year of what Purvis intends to be a long career as the Vice President for University Advancement.
“The minute this opportunity came up, there really wasn’t any discussion on it,”he says. “I wasn’t exactly looking for a new position, but it’s all upside here no matter what’s happening in higher education. Here, there’s tremendous loyalty with the alumni base, great engagement with the community, and an exceptional faculty. I feel very fortunate to be at Butler at this particular time.”
Despite the years of experience that qualified him for this position, Purvis knew his role would entail challenges. As a whole, higher education in America faces the reality of rising costs and dwindling applicant pools, with a Midwestern, private university such as Butler facing even more of an uphill battle.
But Purvis is all smiles. He’s thinking five, 10 years down the road. He is making sure people get to know him while aligning his office’s goals with President Jim Danko’s vision for the University’s growth in the 21st century. And that all started by realizing just how significant Butler can become in the lives of those it touches—not just for the individuals he has met, but also for Purvis himself.
“The very first college campus I set foot on was Butler’s,” the Noblesville, Indiana, native says. “I was a little kid seeing my oldest brother on stage in a production of Godspell thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is what college does for you.’ It was transcendent. So that’s what higher education has always meant to me—transformation.”
That’s why Purvis has made it his mission to make that same transcendent experience possible for every person who comes to Butler. So, when he speaks about the University to members of the community, he doesn’t just sell the importance of giving back in terms of dollars and cents. Giving of one’s time through mentorships can make even more of an impact.
“I see philanthropy as any way that people can express their appreciation and commitment to the Butler Way, to make sure that unique and critical experience continues to happen for our young people,” he says. “That is why the main focus of the Office moving forward will be to enhance what we at Butler already do so well.”
Only time will tell exactly how Butler fuels its future. But if his smile before the winter break was any indication, plans are coming sooner, not later. If you were thinking big, Purvis suggests you think bigger.