Jim Dworkin FACEBOOK VIDEO: Jim Dworkin, former chancellor of Purdue University North Central and a member of the Krannert School faculty, discusses his start as an author of children's books. (Photo provided)

Teachable Moments

Krannert prof and former PNC chancellor pens new career

James B. Dworkin, chancellor emeritus of Purdue University North Central (PNC) and a faculty member at the Krannert School of Management, knows a teachable moment when he sees one.

Several years ago, Dworkin was at Sanibel Island in Florida when he saw dog swimming near a dolphin, which led to his first children’s book, The Dog and the Dolphin. Inspiration struck again on a later visit to a Lake Michigan beach when he heard a rather odd announcement: "Clear the beach; there's a mad dog on a jet ski." That became the basis for a sequel, The Dog and the Jet Ski.

As a parent and grandparent, Dworkin knows the importance of reading with children and sparking their active imaginations. The books are intended for children from birth through third grade and Dworkin hopes that parents, grandparents, teachers and child care providers will enjoy them with the children in their lives. “I’m really passionate about helping children learn and to read at a young age,” he says.

His stories capture the interest of children while teaching valuable lessons of friendship, diversity and helping others in times of need as the story's main characters form an unlikely, yet unmistakable bond.

The books are illustrated by Michael Chelich of Munster, Indiana, whose detailed artwork helps to draw readers into the story and cleverly includes members of the Dworkin family. Henry and Theo, the two boys mentioned in the second book, are named for Dworkin's grandsons. The illustration of the crowd on the beach includes a depiction of Dworkin, his grandson Jimmy, and granddaughters Ally and Abby. The dog, an Irish Setter named Red, is a nod to a former family pet.

In 2018, Dworkin and Chelich collaborated on a third book featuring Red for the Shirley Heinze Land Trust in northwestern Indiana. In Red’s Nature Adventure, readers follow along with the dog as he and his human friends head out for a day of exploration in nature. Along the way, adventurous Red meets other animal friends who offer him guidance and teach him about the natural habitats in which they live.

Although writing for a children’s audience requires less time and research than academic publishing, Dworkin says both mediums share a common goal. “You need to start with a clear idea, define the problem for your audience, and offer a creative solution they can understand,” he says.

Clearly, Dworkin also has a talent for teaching that he’s carried throughout his career.

Originally an economics major, Dworkin didn't consider academic work until he was encouraged by a professor at the University of Cincinnati to channel his interest in labor relations into research. He went on for a master's in Cincinnati in 1971 and earned a PhD at the University of Minnesota in 1977. Before working in educational administration, Dworkin taught at the Krannert School on Purdue's West Lafayette campus for 23 years.

He was then asked by the Purdue president to be a candidate for chancellor at PNC. When Dworkin accepted the offer, he originally expected to stay five years, but five became 10 and then almost 15. He finally retired at the end June 2015, just before PNC officially merged with Purdue University Calumet to become Purdue University Northwest (PNW).

Although his administrative career is over, Dworkin is still drawn to teaching, sharing his knowledge not only with Krannert students, but also by reading to young children and their adult companions in visits to schools, libraries and bookstores.

“I teach master's students and undergrads, but I can also go into a class of kindergarten kids and the pedagogy still works,” he says. “I really enjoy that.”

Copies of Dworkin’s books are available for purchase on Amazon.com. To learn more and schedule a reading, visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thedogandthedolphin/.

By Carol Connelly and Eric Nelson