First Merchants Corp. in Muncie, Indiana, has added the president of one of the nation’s largest universities to its board.
Mung Chiang was inaugurated as president of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, in January. The $18 billion-asset First Merchants announced his appointment as a director Wednesday.
Chiang’s experience as a educator, university executive and entrepreneur, as well as his renown as Purdue’s chief executive, will be significant boost to 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 enterprise-wide risk, 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. He will be added to the ballot for a full three-year term at the company’s May annual meeting, according to Hardwick.
“I’m honored to be joining such a strong, outstanding board,” Chiang said Wednesday in a press release. “First Merchants is a high-performing bank helping to facilitate sustained economic growth across Indiana and neighboring states.”
According to Hardwick, who was appointed CEO in January 2021, First 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, chairman of the bank’s board, serves as a director of the Purdue Research Foundation, which manages Purdue’s endowment. Schalliol also served as director of Indiana’s Office of Management and Budget from 2004 to 2007, during Governor Mitch Daniels’ administration. Daniels was Chiang’s immediate predecessor as Purdue president, holding that role from 2013 to 2023.
Chiang taught electrical engineering at Purdue and Princeton Universities. Prior to becoming Purdue’s president, he was executive vice president for strategic initiatives. Chiang also served as dean of Purdue’s engineering school from 2017 to 2022.
Beyond his academic career, Chiang has maintained a strong interest in entrepreneurialism. He founded three companies and has received 25 patents. At Princeton, Chiang was the inaugural chairman of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.
“Supporting businesses to grow and thrive through attentive service helps our communities prosper, and that is our bank’s service approach,” Schalliol said in the press release. “[Chiang’s] experiences indicate his passionate desire to have that type of positive economic impact, and we are grateful to have him join our board.”
Companies are leaning on their directors more than ever for oversight and guidance, according to Rajeev Kumar, a senior managing director at Georgeson, a corporate governance consulting firm. “Evolving regulatory requirements and heightened expectations from investors and other stakeholders are increasing the demands placed on directors,” Kumar said.
Naveen Bhateja, chief people officer at Medidata in New York, says First Merchants scored a coup by adding Chiang to the board.
“His deep and rich skillset will definitely boost First Merchants’ agenda, particularly given that the core pillar of their strategy is to invest in the digital transformation of their delivery channels to simplify the client experience,” Bhateja said.
Chiang’s appointment “will also serve FMB well in amplifying the industry’s voice to legislators and regulators,” Bhateja added.
Despite Chiang’s high profile as Purdue president, he may not be First Merchant’s best-known director. CBS college basketball commentator Clark Kellogg has served as a director since 2019.
Purdue began the 2022-2023 academic year with a total enrollment of 50,884, according to the university.