George Ade's affiliation with Purdue did not end with his graduation. He was active in the Purdue Alumni Association, serving as president in 1889 and working as editor and columnist for the Purdue Alumnus. Ade was elected twice to Purdue's Board of Trustees as the alumni representative. He was a tireless fundraiser for various university projects and programs and was a staunch supporter of Purdue's athletic teams. In 1922, Edward C. Elliott became President of Purdue University. Elliott, known throughout the country as an innovative educator, a recognized authority on education administration, and an avid college football fan soon developed a close friendship with George Ade. During the official welcome dinner honoring President Elliott, the university's largest benefactor, David Ross, formally announced that he and fellow alumnus George Ade had combined forces to purchase and donate the Tilt Farm to Purdue for the site of a new stadium and athletic field. Ade had been hesitant at first when the name Ross-Ade Stadium was proposed, because he thought it sounded like a beverage. However, he soon became enthusiastic about the idea, saying, “Students who come here a few years from now will know nothing about a fellow named Ade who wrote fables in slang, and plays, but if my name is ... on that stadium, they'll be tipped off that someone named Ade was identified in some way with Purdue University. I'd like that.” In 1923, President Elliott noted that under the law the university could not assume bond issues in order to pay for construction of the new stadium. Elliott suggested that instead David Ross and George Ade form a corporation that would control the stadium financing. The Ross-Ade Foundation was subsequently formed and construction on Ross-Ade Stadium began. Over the past 80 years, the Ross-Ade Foundation has continued to provide the university with buildings, land, and off-campus sites including the regional campuses in Hammond, Fort Wayne, and Indianapolis.
Old maids adopt cats and canaries. David Ross and I adopted Purdue.
George Ade, letter to James Kirby Risk, 17 September 1930
Besides supporting Purdue’s athletic programs, Ade was also instrumental in the funding of the Memorial Gymnasium, the Memorial Union building, and various campus renovations and programs. Ade also gets a little credit from the Engineering Department for introducing the idea of an aeronautical curriculum at the university. In 1908, Ade's musical comedy, The Fair Co-Ed, was produced by Purdue’s Harlequin Club before it went to Broadway. The first act took place in front of Purdue’s fictional Aero Navigation Laboratory where students designed and tested airplanes. Ade’s vision of aeronautical studies at the university began to take shape two years later with the organization of the Purdue Aero Club which eventually paved the way for the Aeronautical Engineering program.
Ade's contributions to Purdue University go far beyond a name on a stadium. Ade used his fame as a writer and playwright at the turn of the 20th century to shamelessly promote his alma mater whenever possible, often using Purdue as the setting for his plays and as a topic in his essays, short stories, and interviews. He put the university on a national stage promoting its athletic and academic programs. Ade's personal financial contributions when adjusted for today's inflation total well over a million dollars. Commenting on Ade's status as a lifelong bachelor John McCutcheon said, "In the lack of real babies of his own, I think George has adopted Indiana, Purdue, and the Sigs as the repositories of his interest and affections. If you ever saw human agony, just gaze at the features of Mr. Ade when Purdue is losing a football game. He looks like four years of agony."