I have long greeted freshman students with, “So you are a freshman. Great! Freshmen are very important people. Without freshmen there soon would be no seniors or, in fact, a university, and I like it here.”
With rare exceptions I had happy relationships with the students during my days in the president’s office. I saved time for contact with them; I tried to accept their invitations even though in some instances it was not particularly convenient to do so. I recognized the fact that they invited me to their many functions in the best spirit, evidencing their interest in Indiana University and their friendliness toward me. Many times student dinners are a bit stiff and awkward, but the youngsters are learning the art of entertaining, a useful part of their whole learning experience. By keeping close to students, one is reminded that they are a major reason for the existence of the university and certainly the major reason why the state supports the institution. In the quality and spirit of these youngsters is to be found the future of the state and nation. They and their parents are making sacrifices in order to realize an individual and family dream, seeking the mobility and self-fulfillment that can come with a collegiate and professional education.
I not only spent a great deal of time in responding to student social obligations, but as well tried throughout my career to schedule open office hours regularly for student visits. At the beginning of the academic year, I set aside a period each month during which, it was announced, students were invited to come to my office without making appointments to discuss any subject they wished. In this way I tried to overcome any reticence that students might have about breaking into the calendar of a busy president. Needless to say, students did come, and came in large numbers, particularly at the beginning of each year. But after a month or so, their numbers would dwindle. Possibly it was because I was unable to make the sessions interesting enough for the individual student, or perhaps, when the students found out that they had ready access to the presidential ear, they were satisfied, unless they really had some important reason for wanting to be heard.
In the early days of my presidency the university’s enrollment was predominantly undergraduate, but as the years went along the graduate and professional enrollments increased dramatically both in numbers and in relation to the rest of the student body. Graduate and professional students often have a maturity that makes them academic colleagues in the true sense of the word, and one can be stimulated by them and learn from them. On the other hand, even to this day I find meeting the shy, naive freshman or sophomore one of the experiences I most value. It is so refreshing to talk to these youngsters, to learn that each succeeding generation of students is facing life in much the same way that their predecessors did, then to try to help them by giving them perspective and encouragement, knowing that they will, if they persist, find their way as so many have done before them.
The beginning of my administration was before the time of the organized Help Weeks project that Colonel Raymond L. Shoemaker as dean of students was later to inaugurate. Nevertheless, from time to time, the students on their own quite spontaneously developed projects in which they demonstrated their interest in the university’s welfare, addressed the needs of some of the town’s unfortunate, or otherwise attempted to meet their civic responsibilities in the society of which they were temporarily a part.
Throughout most of my presidential years, there was high student morale on the campus, at both the graduate and the undergraduate levels. The morale was reflected in the students’ attitude toward the university and in their reports concerning it to their parents and friends throughout the state. A satisfied student body is, after all, the greatest public-relations asset a university can have. In fact, it needs no formal public-relations program if the members of the university community, students and faculty alike, believe enthusiastically in the institution and proclaim their belief in it throughout the state. The voice of administrators or even the voice of trustees could never approach the force of the combined chorus from the host of students and faculty members as they spontaneously and informally express their views of the work and the program of the university.
Of course, the students who came after World War II were a very special lot. For the most part they had had to interrupt their education or delay it to serve in the armed forces throughout the world, had had bitter and brutal experiences, and, in the case of many of them, had married and begun a family. So they came to college determined to make the most of their opportunity. I suppose we will never have a more diligent, determined, and remarkable group of men and women than those who came to us in the late 1940s, motivated and tempered by their wartime experiences. The university tried to respond by doing its best, with limited resources of staff and plant, to make sure that no qualified student was denied access to this opportunity. It is a great tribute to the students that they were tolerant and patient about the physical inconveniences they had to bear in their housing and living arrangements and about the inadequacy of many of the classroom and laboratory provisions arranged rapidly to absorb overwhelming numbers of students. They were an inspiring lot to all of us, and by their own determined spirit, sacrifice, and enthusiasm they sustained us in the nearly superhuman task of meeting the onrush of veterans.
One of the most time-consuming and important responsibilities relating to students that occurred during my administration involved the effort to shake off our previous university practices that discriminated against Black students—in essence, the effort to make Black students full-fledged members of the university community. First, a little background is necessary.
Bloomington has long enjoyed the benefit of a substantial number of Black families, some of whom came here from the South before the Civil War, many soon after, and quite a few of whom have remained for several generations. As a consequence they are now among the town’s oldest families, well established and well respected. They early began to send their children to the university, and one, Preston Eagleson, became a highly regarded halfback in football and pitcher in baseball on the teams of 1894 and 1895. Graduates among the children of these local families have had a proud record of achievement in teaching, in legal scholarship, and in other professions and fields. There has never been to my knowledge any discrimination against the admission of Black students, and because until the 1900s the university furnished no living or dining facilities for students—white or black—discrimination on the basis of race was not an issue at that time. In those days there seems to have been relatively little racial tension present on the campus.
Seemingly with the coming of the Ku Klux Klan and its activity in the local community following World War I, absurd barriers of segregation were erected by the university. For example, when I became president, Black students had been barred from the use of the university swimming pools. Also, the university physician, using the device of a medically certified handicap to exclude them, automatically exempted Black male students from the compulsory R.O.T.C. program on the pretext that they all had flat feet. There were segregated tables for Black students in the Commons dining room of the Memorial Union Building. Black students were not admitted to university residence halls.1
Partly to meet the need thus created and partly as a result of their own initiative, some local Black entrepreneurs developed housing and dining facilities for Black students. A most dramatic example of this entrepreneurship was provided by Sam Dargan, a graduate of both Indiana and Purdue, who for nearly a lifetime was curator of the law school here and who came to own, by acquiring it piece by piece, a considerable amount of property adjacent to the campus. His property was adapted to student housing, one rather large house and annex for women with a housemother to meet the university requirements for chaperonage. In later years he built a substantial brick dormitory for men. One of the women who had property near the campus, Ruth Mays, ran a boarding house for Black students, and her place became a social and counseling center (older students took responsibility for younger students) as well as a dining club. The churches of the Black community were active in welcoming Black students who came to Bloomington and helped to provide social life and activities for these young men and women. Kappa Alpha Psi, a Black fraternity, was founded here in 1911 and, having now spread throughout the United States, has become a powerful national organization. Soon there developed some Black sororities as well. Kappa Alpha Psi was started in part because Black students knew each other and wished to have their own social organization and in part because by that time the predominant, white organizations either had discriminatory clauses in their national constitutions or simply practiced discrimination by not offering membership to Black students.
As we began to break down the barriers of discrimination, occasionally individuals who had been providing services for the Black students were less than cooperative because they felt that, by lifting the barriers, we were eliminating their source of livelihood in callous ingratitude for the investment that they had made to provide the only services Black students could hitherto obtain. I suppose the local Black community approved the removal of these barriers in principle, but some individuals were not exactly happy about the result in practice. The state NAACP and prominent Black alumni in Indianapolis and elsewhere, by maintaining constant pressure for change, were helpful by supporting our moves in the face of varying forms of resistance.
In taking the steps required to remove those reprehensible, discriminatory rules, we tried to make a move if possible when the issue was not being violently discussed pro and con on the campus. I felt that making the moves in this manner would, and in fact it did, prevent any backlash that might set the whole program back. For example, one of the earliest steps we took was to remove the reserved signs from certain tables in the Commons. Everyone knew that these reserved signs on the tables meant that the Black students were to sit there. One afternoon when the place was deserted, James Patrick, then manager of the Union Building, went with me to the Commons to look the situation over. I turned to him and said, “Pat, I want you to remove all those signs. Do it unobtrusively and make no mention of what you’ve done.” He followed my instructions explicitly. It was two weeks before anyone discovered the fact that the signs were gone and then, of course, the absurdity of the previous situation was apparent.
The denial of the men’s swimming pool in the old gymnasium to Blacks had to be handled in a similar fashion. It had long been the policy of the football coaches to welcome Black players, some of whom became relatively famous. This provided my clue. One day I asked Zora Clevenger, the athletic director, to come see me. Our conversation went something like this: “When is the swimming pool most heavily used in the afternoon?” He answered, “Generally from 3:00 to 4:30.” “Who is your most popular Black athlete?” I asked. He quickly replied, “Rooster Coffee.” Rooster Coffee was a well known football player with a wonderful personality who had won the heart of the campus. I then inquired, “Is Rooster around here in the afternoon?” He said, “Oh, yes, he’s here regularly working out.” I told Clev, “Some afternoon next week when the pool is quite full, go down on the floor, find Rooster, and tell him to strip in the locker room and go jump in the pool.” (Swimmers were required to swim in the nude for sanitary reasons.) He asked, “Do you mean it?” to which I replied, “Yes, and don’t tell anybody, even Rooster, what you’re going to do in advance.” A few afternoons later, when the situation was just right, he spoke with Rooster and Rooster cooperated completely—stripped and jumped in, swimming with abandon for a half hour or so. He was so cordially greeted, I doubt that anyone realized a policy had been changed. That was the last of discrimination against Blacks in the use of the pool.
At that time there was an informal understanding among the basketball coaches that they would not recruit Black basketball players, a practice that now seems incredible. There was some kind of mumbo jumbo about the fact that the sport included too much bodily contact to make it feasible to mix the races. One afternoon along in the spring some of my Black friends from Indianapolis, most of whom were alumni, showed up in my office to say that if our basketball coach, Branch McCracken, would play Bill Garrett they felt that they could persuade him to come to Indiana University. Bill Garrett had a fabulous record as a high school player, and his team had just won the state tournament. I said, “That would be great. Let me see what we can do.”
I again consulted with Clevenger, who said, “The basketball coaches have an understanding on this, and, if we were to violate that understanding, we’d probably have a hard time getting a schedule, but, if Branch wants to do it, I’ll back him.” So I asked Coach McCracken, “Branch, how would you like to have Bill Garrett on your team?” His reply was enthusiastic. “That would be great. He’s a magnificent basketball player already and we sure could use him, but you know I probably would be ostracized by all my fellow Big Ten coaches if we took him.” “Let’s take him,” I urged, “and if there’s any conference backlash against it, then I’ll take the responsibility for handling it.” To convince him I added, “In the first place they won’t dare make a public issue of it, and if they harass you in private I will, through the Council of Ten, bring the pressure of the other nine Big Ten presidents to bear upon the coaches.” Bill Garrett did come here and made a great record as a basketball player and student. So far as I ever knew or heard, the other coaches capitulated and began to scramble for good Black players. It just took one school to break that vicious circle. We had somewhat similar experiences in other sports with the same happy outcome. Although of course we had had Black football players before the turn of the century, as I have said, in golf and baseball as well as in basketball, we were the first Big Ten school to have Blacks on the team.
Our efforts to end segregation hit a snag with the development of on-campus housing. The administrators of our housing units were apprehensive that, if we admitted Black students, there would be objection, not necessarily from white students, but from their parents to the extent of seeking other housing for their sons and daughters. This fear did not prove to be justified in the case of male students, but with women students it was another matter. The pressure from that direction against having Black students in the residence halls was sufficient for the trustees to become fearful that integration could not work just then. As a consequence, in order to achieve our goals, we had to take an intermediate step, which was to create a residence hall for Black women that was nevertheless a university facility. Sometime before, when the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority had built its new house, the university had bought its rather fine old house on Sorority Alley to be used for university housing and called Lincoln House. Now we decided to remodel it, make it into an even better facility but retain its name, Lincoln House, and bring in a skilled interior decorator from Cincinnati to decorate and furnish it. Then we placed one of our most able counseling couples in charge and transferred one of our topnotch cooks to head the kitchen force. It was perhaps the best-appointed and most comfortable housing facility that the university has ever provided for any students, black or white. Although the rates were the same as for other housing units, Lincoln House was filled for only two years and then the number of its residents declined and the house became a financial burden. The year after Lincoln House opened, the dormitory administration and I were able to persuade the trustees to let us admit Black women to whatever dormitory they wished to enter, and by 1952 there was no longer a need for segregated housing.
The situation with regard to barbershops was another difficult one. As the Black student population grew, some local members of the barbers union tried to get agreement among their members not to cut the hair of Black students, at least during regular barbering hours. The need was met by a Black-owned barbershop on the west side of town, but only after regular hours. We solved that problem with the cooperation of Ed Correll, an influential member of the local barbers union, who was the proprietor of the popular Varsity Barbershop across from the Administration Building. Through his wife, who was in charge of the University Archives in my office, he understood the university’s abhorrence of all forms of discrimination. We decided to lease the handsome barbershop in the Union Building only to an operator who would cut the hair of both Black and white students, and Ed Correll offered to undertake the operation of the shop on that basis with the promise that, if he could not hire barbers who would follow the policy, then he would serve the Black students himself. We accepted Ed’s offer, and later the other barbershops one by one began to accept Black patrons.
One of the most dramatic confrontations that we had was with the local restaurant association. Practically none of the downtown restaurants would serve Black students. Some of the students, aided by faculty members, sought to be served and threatened legal suits against the restaurant owners if they were not served. The faculty members and students knew that there was a statute that made it illegal for public restaurants to discriminate on the basis of race. The issue generated considerable heat, and before long I was invited to meet with all the restaurant owners in the back room of one of the downtown restaurants. There I was informed that, unless we persuaded the students and their faculty supporters to remove their demands for service, the restaurant owners were prepared to close all downtown restaurants, thus depriving many students as well as the downtown community and travelers of their customary places to eat. Prior to the meeting I had taken counsel with Harold Jordan, director of the Union, and when I received this ultimatum I simply called their attention to the fact that they were engaged in procedures that were not just immoral but also illegal, and, therefore, although we wanted to cooperate with downtown businessmen, in this instance our cooperation would have to take the form of expanding the facilities in the Union Building to feed all their displaced customers indefinitely. It was pointed out that many of their customers did from time to time dine at the Union Building, where we served Blacks on the same basis as whites after desegregation of the Commons, and those same customers seemed not to resent service under such conditions.
This was an unexpected response from the university and was, I am sure, very startling to our downtown friends. The issue had grown to intense heat, involving a lot of public statements, editorials, and so on. Our ultimatum in response to theirs resulted in the evaporation of the whole issue, and most restaurants began to serve Black customers as well as white. There may have been a few holdouts, but they were not of sufficient importance to concern the Black students very much.
Through no fault of our own the restaurant issue involved outright confrontation, which we had sought to avoid wherever possible. Once I was accused by a young minister in the town of being a traitor to the cause of equality. It was his belief that the greatest progress would be made only by bringing all issues to a state of confrontation. My reply to him was simply that I wanted to win each issue and not lose one; consequently, wherever possible I thought it best to proceed as we had been doing. Looking back now over those results and others, if I had it to do over again, I would proceed in the same way.
It took a long time to get the discriminatory clauses out of the national charters of the Greek-letter organizations. Many alumni were actively attempting to do so. I attended several Grand Chapters of my own fraternity, Sigma Nu, in order to work to remove racial discrimination in that fraternity. Not only had Sigma Nu discriminated against Blacks from the time of the founding of the fraternity right after the Civil War, it had also added an Oriental clause at the time of the so-called Yellow Peril scare after the turn of this century, a clause that had been pushed by the West Coast chapters. Later, some chapters, unaware that the Oriental clause existed, had initiated Orientals, and other chapters wished to do so with the admission of Hawaii to statehood and with the coming of many talented Oriental athletes to the United States. Just so, when Black athletes became prominent, some of our chapters were eager to pledge Blacks also. Still, the southern and the western chapters were adamant, and it took several sessions of our Grand Chapter before we could get a sufficient vote to eliminate the offensive clauses.
By the time the Greek-letter organizations had cleansed themselves, ironically the Black leadership had begun to spread the “Black is beautiful” philosophy, which tended to deter Black students from accepting invitations from predominantly white fraternities and sororities. In fact, Black students who did accept such invitations often were subjected to considerable pressure by their fellow Blacks. As a consequence the move toward resegregation, whatever its merits, did have as one of its effects a lost opportunity for actual desegregation of the Greek-letter houses.
From the beginning of my presidency to the present day, I have sent a Christmas treat to the staff of the Daily Student each year to indicate to them my appreciation for their efforts. In the early years, in addition to this contact with the Daily Student staff, I attempted to attend as many individual Christmas parties in the halls of residence and in the Greek-letter houses as possible. Following World War II, in 1948, the Association of Women Students (AWS) and the Union Board decided to stage an all-university Christmas party for students, faculty, and their families before the students went home for Christmas. It was called Christmas Eve on Campus and began with the “Chimes of Christmas,” a musical program in the Auditorium that is still held annually. Following it the Union Board and the AWS held a party in Alumni Hall and elsewhere in the Union. It was for this occasion in 1948 that I was first asked to play Santa Claus. When it was determined that no ready-made Santa Claus costume would fit very well, the Union Board obtained a suit pattern from my tailor and had a company make the costume for me. It fit perfectly and has continued to be used right up to the present. When we arrived at the Union after the “Chimes of Christmas” program, I was taken to the suite in the Union tower, which then contained hotel rooms, and with the aid of some members of the Union Board changed into my Santa Claus suit. In the Daily Student and elsewhere much had been made of the fact that a mystery Santa Claus would visit the Union Board’s Christmas party. Headlines in the Daily Student proclaimed: “Saint Nick is campus bound today—mystery Claus to visit Union Christmas party.”2 Coming down to the lobby floor of the Union, I was met by several waiting members of the AWS board and the Union Board who were dressed as elves and carried bags of candy canes. The music was stopped in Alumni Hall and a fanfare was struck. Then I proceeded through the packed crowd in the hall throwing candy canes in all directions even after I reached the stage. By prior request of the committee, I next asked for the crowd’s attention and delivered a Christmas message to the university family, expressed my good wishes for their holidays, and admonished the students to drive carefully to and from their homes. Of course, the crowd under the circumstances was warm, friendly, and responsive. I continued throughout the entire time of my presidency to speak to the campus celebrants on this cheerful, affectionate, sentimental occasion.
I still make appearances for the Union Board in their Santa suit at Christmastime, but their party has been radically changed. It is an all-day affair in the South Lounge, refreshments are served, and Santa Claus appears for an hour or so to visit with students and children individually in quite a casual way.
The question of desegregating the sexes in the residence halls was not a live issue during my service as president. In the mid-1940s, when we were designing the halls that became Wright Quadrangle, our plan called for women to occupy one wing and men the remainder, and the women and men to share the lounge and dining facilities with the idea that this arrangement would contribute to the social development of the students, that is, make them conscious of their appearance, improve their manners, and assist them in cultivating some of the social graces. Because when Wright was completed we were in urgent need of rooms for men, this early intent to have side-by-side units for men and women was not carried through. It was a decade later before Teter Quadrangle, composed of three buildings for women and two for men, opened and inaugurated coeducational lounges and dining rooms without fanfare or a single objection that I can recall.
But by the time I had become interim president in 1968, students were actively seeking an end to the university’s policy of “in loco parentis,” agitating for elimination of curfew hours for freshmen women in the dorms, and pressing for open guest hours in student rooms. Many people in the state were alarmed by what they considered a backing off by the university from its responsibility for supervision of student conduct but what the students insisted instead was long-overdue recognition by the university of individual responsibility. (It was probably not by chance that such a feeling had manifested itself soon after the national call-up of youth to bear a large share of the responsibility for the American defense of Vietnam.) Still, a vocal segment of the public saw nothing but evil intent and outcome in these proposals to entrust students with responsibility for their social conduct.
The president of the student body at the time, Ted Najam, now a prominent local attorney, had staked his leadership on seeing these issues through to a successful conclusion. Capable, bright, and fastidious, he was a persuasive protagonist. Even though a brief trial period of open guest hours in the spring had failed to produce the dire consequences predicted by opponents and even though a summer survey of parental attitudes toward open visitation had shown surprising support (about 40 percent), the Board of Trustees was for the most part reluctant to approve the measures. A committee of the board met with student leaders, several faculty members, and administrators at my home prior to the board’s official session. It was pointed out that students could and did live in apartments that were not segregated by sex and that the whole system we had inherited was in many ways absurd. Moreover, any differentiation in practice between rules for men’s rooms and those for women’s rooms could not be sustained under the force of such logic. At the board session that followed, motions approving open guest hours under specified circumstances and freeing students from living in university housing if they preferred off-campus arrangements passed by narrow margins. Since students from then on could live where they and their parents pleased, including certain residence halls reserved for those who did not wish open guest hours, the board’s action provided all the options that could be desired.
Indiana University was the first school in the state, public or private, to move in this direction. Dire predictions of legislative reprisals and parental boycotts of the university or its residence halls followed. No serious repercussion occurred, although an alumnus in the legislature tried to make a hot issue of the guest-hours privilege in the next session of the General Assembly. It would have been prudent for the students to have deferred their proposal until after the General Assembly met, as I advised them then, but they were impatient. Considerable heat was generated, but in the end the legislature did not penalize the university for its action. As I look back now, I feel that this recognition of student responsibility was long overdue, and I am happy that it came about when I was the president, though briefly, for any stigma associated with the decision rightly attached to me rather than to my successor. Unfortunately for him, that distinction was not always made by critics of the university, but the outcry soon subsided.
In nearly every instance during my career, I enjoyed the cooperation and support of student leaders, which I tried to reciprocate fully by meeting their requests and program ideas whenever possible. However, some of the changes through the years, particularly with reference to eliminating the in loco parentis stance, have resulted in the employment of more expensive and less efficient means to achieve virtually the same end.
For example, for many years the university maintained an inspection service of off-campus housing and kept a list of approved rooms and apartments. A university staff member inspected the rooms and apartments, noted their adequacy in furnishings and arrangements, and placed the approved ones on a list that was made available to students for their use in finding space out in town. For some reason, during the 1960s this procedure caused quite an uproar among activist students, who termed it paternalistic, discriminatory, and unnecessary. Not many years after the procedure was abandoned, students, finding themselves at the mercy of landlords, began clamoring for the Bloomington City Council to pass ordinances requiring the inspection of rental rooms. That inspection proved to be an endless, ineffective, and expensive procedure, involving considerable bureaucracy instead of the lone university staff member who accomplished the inspection as only one of his duties when the out-in-town students were fewer in number.
Much the same kind of costly substitution for in loco parentis has taken place in the field of counseling, where now an elaborate program, clearly and strongly paternalistic, is continually being expanded to meet the needs of special groups as well as of the student body as a whole.
A happy student body translates itself into a happy alumni body. One of the greatest assets that the university enjoyed in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, as I observed in my presidency, was the active, loyal, and interested support of our alumni throughout the state and the nation. In a typical county-seat community in Indiana the majority of leading businessmen, the majority of the physicians, the majority of teachers, nearly all the nurses, and nearly all the lawyers and civic leaders have attended Indiana University. As one goes about the state, one is always enveloped in the interest and affection of these men and women. So it is with the alumni throughout the country. Many of our men and women have, because of the nature of our society, found their careers beyond the borders of the state with the result that we have in nearly every population center throughout the United States a group of distinguished leaders in their professions or activities who are Indiana University men and women, and they rally to the support of the university whenever called upon. It is true in Washington, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and so on. In fact, I believe that Indiana University furnishes a disproportionate share of political leadership relative to the size of its total student body, as compared with the total student body of the state.
Through the years two delightful types of extracurricular activities have been outstanding at Indiana University: one, the search for either a husband or a wife and the record of success in that regard; and the other, the university’s service as a spawning ground for political leadership to such a degree that a very high proportion of the political leadership—national, state, and local—that has come from Indiana has had training in political organizations and in political student activity on this campus.
A distinctive characteristic of the alumni scene at Indiana University throughout all the years of my presidency and to the present has been the highly constructive leadership of the Alumni Association. As an official body the association has been diligent and persevering in its support of the university, dedicated to the university’s welfare, and unusually understanding in times of university crisis. Although individual alumni would occasionally attack us bitterly during the Kinsey period, never once throughout all those years did the Alumni Association as a body fail to back the university’s policies. The same steadfastness has been accorded the athletic program. In some universities the alumni association is so attuned to football victories that a string of defeats swings the association to an antagonistic view toward the administration of the university. We did not have that kind of opposition to contend with during my years. There were alumni who were disheartened, discouraged, and sometimes bitter when we lost more than they thought we should, but such attitudes were never expressed in a destructive or organized manner. The alumni of a great university often have first loyalty to their individual colleges, divisions, or professional groups, whereas one of the areas of interest common to all is that of intercollegiate athletics. So the lawyer, the doctor, the schoolteacher can all share the desire for winning teams and the sorrow over losses. We had during this period strong alumni secretaries, George Heighway and Claude Rich, who were able to interpret to other alumni the fact that we were striving to do our best, using all of the skill and ingenuity we had to succeed in every area of the university’s life.3 As a result we always had the official cooperation of the Alumni Association.
We tried to reciprocate this support by taking the alumni into our confidence in every way conceivable such as confidential meetings with the officers of the Alumni Association, the appointment of alumni visiting committees, and a never-ending effort to carry the story of university activities directly to the alumni in their meetings throughout the country. In the second year of my presidency, under the astute and skillful guidance of George Heighway, I spent many weeks speaking to alumni clubs from Boston to Seattle and from Minneapolis to Miami, crisscrossing the country. There were some fifty-odd alumni meetings in which we attempted to lay out the program that we envisioned to ensure scholarly growth and distinction, and we invited alumni to back us in that mighty effort. They responded magnificently, and I shall ever be grateful to them and their leadership for the help that we received in trying to build a more distinguished university in which they could take pride and that would enhance the value of their degrees. Conversely, the university was always conscious of the fact that in the success and achievement of its alumni lay the true measure of the quality of its own work and service to youth.
Because of their invaluable assistance and support during my administration, George Heighway and Claude Rich deserve a special word. George “Dixie” Heighway was a knowledgeable and perceptive alumni secretary and executive director of the Indiana University Foundation. Aware that I was not known to the older alumni when I became president, he set to work immediately to ease the transition from President Bryan’s leadership to mine among those longtime alumni and to establish a relationship between them and me, assisted throughout by Dr. Bryan himself. Only a person keenly attuned to the perceptions of the older alumni and at the same time frank with me could have advised me, as he did on one occasion, to seek a better tailor. I did. Claude Rich and I have known each other since we were children and, as distant cousins, attended the same family reunions and visited back and forth with our families. Claude proved to be a vigorous and effective leader of the Alumni Association, raising it to new heights in membership and activities. Quite early he became my trusted, indispensable advisor, with whom I discussed every major issue affecting the alumni or the public. As the years passed, he helped to involve the alumni in our legislative activities and became an effective agent in interpreting our needs to the newly elected and incumbent members of the General Assembly and to our friends throughout the state.
A considerable part of the Alumni Association’s program is carried on through the active constituent alumni societies of the schools and divisions. These groups—for instance, those of the dental school, the business school, the law school, the medical school, education, and journalism—are the counterpart of the traditional city and county clubs throughout the state, the nation, and abroad. Another innovation in this period was the establishment of the Distinguished Alumni Service Award (DASA), five of which are bestowed annually, and the formation of the DASA Club, composed of the awardees, which meets during Commencement weekend. Under the able and entrepreneurial leadership of Frank B. Jones, the awardwinning Alumni Association has continued to expand its program ming to involve more and more alumni in such activities as travel, family camps, and the Mini University.
Through the years of travel I have met alumni in every state of the Union and in many foreign countries, both Americans living abroad and alumni who have returned to their native countries. Regardless of where I would travel, on whatever kind of business, I have had the happy privilege of coming upon alumni, sometimes in wholly unexpected places. Not always would I recognize them, but they recognized me and a warm reunion would ensue. In time I came to realize that our alumni are everywhere; in fact, the sun never sets on the world of Indiana University alumni. Moreover, throughout the world and often in strange circumstances I have found some link with Indiana University through the activities of the extended university family, as is illustrated by the following story.
In the spring of 1974 I accepted an assignment to go to Nigeria to conduct a survey for the Public Service Review Commission of that country. I was recruited to conduct a study of the ability and willingness of the existing Nigerian universities to train people for the development function of the nation. Nigerian political leaders were charging that the universities were interested only in traditional education, hence were neglecting the training of people to lead the work of developing the “new Nigeria.”
I arrived in Lagos on May 15 and was assigned a room in the new section of the New Ikoyi Hotel, the best hotel in Lagos. My room looked down on a large and beautiful swimming pool presided over by a Nigerian named Dada. Dada was a handsome chap who was, I should say, about forty and who had a brother with the permanent delegation of Nigeria to the United Nations.
It was steaming hot in Lagos at the time, very humid. Although I had an air-conditioned office as well as an air-conditioned hotel room (when the air conditioning worked), the heat and humidity were debilitating. To combat these, I developed a habit of swimming about twilight before going to dinner. Dada was fascinated by the fact that a white-haired guest of the hotel would elect to swim each day, so after a while we struck up an acquaintance. When I was delayed in coming down at the end of the day, he would invariably telephone my room to say, “You haven’t been down to swim yet. You must get down here.” The water was warm but refreshing, and my swimming companions were lots of happy Nigerians as well as members of the international colony then resident in Lagos. Recorded music blared out across the pool. The tunes were of an ancient and honorable vintage—such songs as “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary,” “Margie,” and other World War I songs.
Late one afternoon I was resting by the side of the pool after swimming and Dada was there with me. We were discussing a whole variety of topics. He always addressed me as “Papa,” the way Nigerians address a whitehaired man; a woman is addressed as “Mama.” These are titles of respect. We had a good deal of fun with “Papa” and “Dada.” In the morning when I would go down to breakfast I would say, “Good morning, Dada-Dada-Dada-Dada!” and he would reply, “Good morning, Papa-Papa-Papa!” On this particular occasion, the evening was calm and delightful; the sun had just set behind the dense, black-green foliage at the end of the pool, sinking suddenly as it does in the tropics. I looked up at the sky and, seeing that it was filled with fleecy white clouds, I said to Dada, “That’s a buttermilk sky. You probably don’t know what a buttermilk sky is because you don’t have buttermilk here. A friend of mine, a college classmate, wrote a song called ‘Old Buttermilk Sky.’ He lives in Palm Springs, California, fifteen thousand miles from where we are. Of course you wouldn’t know about him, but I thought you might want to know what a buttermilk sky is and that there is a song written about it.” Dada grinned almost from ear to ear, and I could tell that he was about to deliver a coup de grace. He loved besting me. After a moment’s hesitation, he broke into song, singing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Old Buttermilk Sky” from start to finish. I could not have been more surprised or pleased. It gave me an eerie feeling, hearing “Old Buttermilk Sky” in that circumstance, long distant from the day when Hoagy had composed it and far away in the depths of tropical Africa, sung by a native Nigerian. Of course, it was a striking demonstration of the universal appeal of Hoagy’s songs. Dada was delighted to have been able to cap my story.
1. Even though there was discrimination, we had more Black students than did any other collegiate institution in the state.
2. Someone at the Gables, the student hangout, clipped and modified the headline and posted it so that it read as a Gables bulletin, “Nick is campus bound.” Nick, who was very popular on campus, was one of the Poolitsan brothers, owners of the Gables.
3. George Heighway served from November, 1925, through December, 1947. Claude Rich became alumni secretary on January 1, 1948, and left the post on May 1, 1968, to direct the university’s Sesquicentennial celebration.