"Whom are you?" he asked, for he had attended business college.
George Ade, "The Steel Box," 1898
Purdue University had been founded by John Purdue only fourteen years earlier and Ade would later comment that when he arrived the "plaster was still wet in the corners." The student body consisted of two hundred students; Ade's incoming freshman class had thirty students, out of which only eight would graduate. Ade chose Science for his major because it had the fewest mandatory math requirements of any major offered by the college. Ade joined the Sigma Chi fraternity which had won its Supreme Court battle to be allowed on campus earlier that year. Ade's affiliation with Sigma Chi would continue throughout his life; he served as Grand Consul in 1909, headed the Delta Delta Chapter House Building Association in 1912 and matched dollar for dollar all contributions raised to finance the new fraternity house (still in use today). He also hosted the annual Sigma Chi Dinner at his estate. Ade’s first two years at college went smoothly; he was an adept but not brilliant student. However, during his last two years his grades began to drop and Ade would later joke that he was "at the top of my class ... alphabetically." He received an academic alert in 1886 for his poor grades in Physics and Zoology. Ade’s drop in academic performance can be attributed in part to his newly discovered love for the theater and also his growing reputation as the easy-going host of many college parties and outings. Incoming freshman, John T. McCutcheon, had heard of Ade's reputation and was eager to meet the tall, quiet junior. Ade brought McCutcheon into Sigma Chi and they soon developed a close friendship that would last a lifetime. Another freshman caught Ade's attention, Lillian Howard. Ade courted the fair-haired Lafayette girl for four years until she broke his heart by marrying a Baptist minister from Minnesota. Ade often claimed that he was a lifelong bachelor because "another man married my girl."