First Merchants Corp. in Muncie, Indiana, has added to its board the president of one of the nation’s largest universities.
Mung Chiang took over as president of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, in January. First Merchants, with assets of $18 billion, announced the appointment of him as director on Wednesday.
Chiang’s experience as an educator, university executive and entrepreneur, as well as his renown as CEO of Purdue, will be a significant boost for First Merchants, CEO Mark Hardwick said Thursday in an interview. Chiang has agreed to serve on First Merchants’ risk and credit policy committee, which manages risk for the entire company, Hardwick added.
“When you have a strong board with smart, distinguished people, they ask smart questions and set high expectations,” Hardwick said.
First Merchants expanded its board from 14 to 15 seats to appoint Chiang. It will be added to the ballot for a full three-year term at the company’s May annual meeting, according to Hardwick.
“I am honored to join such a strong and outstanding board,” Chiang said Wednesday in a press release. “First Merchants is a high-performing bank that helps facilitate sustained economic growth in Indiana and neighboring states.”
According to Hardwick, who was appointed CEO in January 2021First Merchants maintains several connections to Purdue, which helped pave the way for the bank to reach out to Chiang once it decided to invite him to join the board.
Charles Schalliol, the bank’s chairman of the board, serves as a director of the Purdue Research Foundation, which manages Purdue’s endowment. Schalliol also served as director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget from 2004 to 2007, during the administration of Governor Mitch Daniels. Daniels was Chiang’s immediate predecessor as Purdue president, serving in that role from 2013 to 2023.
Chiang taught electrical engineering at Purdue and Princeton universities. Before becoming Purdue’s president, he was executive vice president for strategic initiatives. Chiang also served as dean of Purdue’s school of engineering from 2017 to 2022.
Beyond his academic career, Chiang has maintained a strong interest in entrepreneurship. He founded three companies and has received 25 patents. At Princeton, Chiang was the inaugural president of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.
“Supporting businesses to grow and prosper through attentive service helps our communities prosper, and that is our bank’s service focus,” Schalliol said in the press release. “[Chiang’s] The experiences indicate his passionate desire to have that kind of positive economic impact, and we are grateful to have him join our board.”
Companies are relying more than ever on their directors for supervision and guidance, according to Rajeev Kumar, a senior managing director at Georgeson, a corporate governance consulting firm. “Evolving regulatory requirements and higher expectations from investors and other stakeholders are increasing the demands on directors,” Kumar said.
Naveen Bhateja, director of human resources at Medidata in New York, says First Merchants struck a blow by adding Chiang to the board.
“His deep and rich skill set will definitely drive the First Merchants agenda forward, particularly as the central pillar of his strategy is to invest in the digital transformation of his delivery channels to simplify the customer experience,” said Bhateja.
Chiang’s appointment “will also serve the FMB to amplify the voice of the industry before legislators and regulators,” Bhateja added.
Despite Chiang’s high profile as Purdue’s president, he may not be First Merchant’s best-known director. CBS college basketball commentator Clark Kellogg has served as director since 2019.
Purdue began the 2022-2023 academic year with a total enrollment of 50,884, according to the university.
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