I work at Purdue University, and I think one of the greatest gifts of working at Purdue University is all the great people I get to meet. Betty Nelson refers to Mike Piggott (Community Relations Director at Purdue) as the living embodiment of the Connector Bus – that the bus which runs from Lafayette to West Lafayette, connecting people together. It seems peculiar to refer to a person as some form of idea transportation, but I think in this case it works.
Mike Piggott does not have to be as nice to me as he is. The first time I was aware of Mike Piggott was when I was working on a library committee for an event called Boiler Gold Rush. I was putting together a presentation that needed to be funny to 3000 freshmen crowded into the Elliot Hall of Music on a Friday morning. I needed a “game show” personality. Since what we were talking about did not really need library skills, I thought back to the person that I had heard at faculty orientation a couple of year before. I remember being really impressed by Mike’s understanding of Purdue lore and also how much confidence and personality made him engaging and dynamic at faculty orientation. It turns out that was because he was a television personality, he was a retired reporter and anchor. I reached out to him and asked if he would be interested in hosting this event.
Mike Piggott did not have to say yes, but Mike said yes. To speaking in front of 3000 students. In a program that he did not have control over. That takes a very special person to agree to a random email. I think that even now I would probably not sign up for something like that. I don’t think that I would have the guts. Or the trust. In the end, we couldn’t do the game show due to other factors, but what an incredible person to just be willing to jump on to such a crazy plan. He didn’t have to do that, he could have said no, but he didn’t.
A couple years later, he cold-emailed me. He had been talking to Greater Lafayette Commerce, who had been one of the first groups that I had gotten to come talk to my Greater Lafayette Greater class. It turned out that he sat on the Quality of Life Council, which he was very interested in getting involved in the class. It turned out to be a great fit and the class benefited from interaction.
Mike reached out and found ways to get involved. He also went one step further, introducing me to other people in the community who could help me teach my class. He told me about events. He also linked me to a video of the totally amazing “Lafayette’s Great” theme song. This type of emotional labor is really something I’m used to only seeing in women on campus, but it’s by no means something that only women can do. He has a way of making you feel like you are very valuable to the whole organization, but also that there are ways that you could serve the organization better.
The thing I like the most about Mike is also how genuinely nice he is. What does it mean to be a nice person, even when you don’t need to be? It’s more than just showing people the door. I am trying more and more to figure out what habits of niceness might look like, that sort of seemingly effortless way that you bring people into something. Without him, I don’t think I would know where to go around Purdue. And I’m very grateful for that. Mike Piggott is making Lafayette great.