November 23, 2020

Purdue junior who put education to use in heroic act honored with One Brick Higher Award

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Hayden White’s clear thinking and quick action as a pool lifeguard in his hometown of Carmel saved a life this summer. White could have reasonably expected to provide assistance to a swimmer in distress. He couldn’t have expected to put his Purdue education to use in a critical situation that had nothing to do with water.

When a fellow lifeguard had suffered a heatstroke in the hot sun — with symptoms that weren’t all that detectable to others on hand — White recognized what was happening and sprung to action, quite literally saving his co-worker’s life.

For his efforts, the Purdue junior in the College of Health and Human Sciences was honored Friday (Nov. 20) with the One Brick Higher Award. The honor came during one of his classes and in front of his classmates. Purdue President Mitch Daniels gave the honor in a video presentation.

The One Brick Higher Award is a special recognition given to Purdue faculty, staff and students who go beyond the requirements of their role and through extraordinary effort improve the lives of those around them, increase the effectiveness of the workplace, or prevent or solve problems. In this case, White’s actions did more than improve someone’s life.

white-brick Hayden White, right, exchanges an arm bump with clinical professor Scott Lawrance as White was presented with the One Brick Higher award during class on Friday (Nov. 20). (Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe)

White, a student in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, was working alongside when a fellow lifeguard dropped to the ground, unconscious, on a particularly hot day in late July. Onlookers thought she had fallen while climbing down from her lifeguard stand. White, however, quickly recognized the much more threatening symptoms of heat stroke, a subject covered in his studies as an athletic training major. Knowing his workmate needed immediate medical intervention, he was able to stabilize her until an ambulance arrived on the scene. By communicating relevant information to the EMTs and helping them load her into the ambulance, White assisted in ensuring she got to the emergency room as quickly as possible.

Two recently retired trauma-room nurses happened to be at the pool and observed White attending to the victim. Later, they stated that they had never observed a lifeguard so well prepared for an emergency and that they wouldn’t have done anything differently. Both even offered to be a job reference for White in the future. 

 “Hayden’s ability to perform under pressure embodies the spirit of building ‘one brick higher,’” Daniels said. “His capacity to help others by turning knowledge into action is a model for fellow Boilermakers.”

White attributed his response to training provided by the athletic training program.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer: Christy McCarter

Media contact: Jim Bush, 765-336-1909, 

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