For the past year, I have been transcribing the handwritten minutes of the Board of Trustees of Indiana University as they are prepared for online reading. Since the end of last year, I have been working through the first set of minutes that the archives possesses, the minutes from 1838-1859. While working in the minutes from 1852, I happened across a name that was very familiar to me: Professor Robert Milligan. I was excited to see this name, as my undergraduate institution, Milligan College in East Tennessee, was named for this very professor. While Milligan was not a professor at the nascent Indiana University for very long, he still made some interesting contributions to the University.
Robert Milligan was born 1814 in Ireland, but soon came with his family to the United States. He lived in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky before graduating and then teaching at Washington College in Pennsylvania, where he eventually became president.
On Wednesday, April 14, 1852, the Board of Trustees of Indiana University unanimously elected Robert Milligan to be the new Professor of Mathematics and Engineering and in an effort “to render the University more useful and more popular” passed the following resolution: “Theoretical and practical Engineering as connected with the Mathematical Department. The numerous public works now in process of construction, renders civil Engineering, a most important branch of University Education, and it cannot be doubted, that instruction by an able and accomplished Mathematician, in this important branch, together with practical illustrations in the field, would meet one of the present demand of public education in Indiana, and add to new class of valuable students to the University.”
Although courses had been offered in civil engineering for nearly a decade, 1853 marked the year when it became part of the Mathematics and Chemistry departments where it remained until 1858. Civil Engineering then disappeared until the 1870s, when it returned as part of a department that also included military science. The return, however, was short lived, probably thanks in part to the establishment of the new Purdue University in Lafayette.
Besides involvement in the fledgling engineering department, Milligan made his mark on the University in other ways. In 1853, the Trustees appointed Milligan to the position of chair of Natural Science and superintendent of the University. By August 3 of that year, however, Milligan had offered his resignation. The Trustees countered by offering him the position of chair of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, which Milligan accepted. After the First College Building was destroyed by a devastating fire in 1854, the Trustees minutes of April 2, 1855 note that Milligan made a donation to help rebuild the University.
On July 31, 1854, again Milligan resigned. The minutes point to health reasons forcing the Milligan family to leave. Indeed, Milligan was a sickly man, having chronic effects of rheumatic fever. Milligan would go on to teach at Bethany College in what is now West Virginia and become president of what is now Transylvania University in Kentucky (then called Kentucky University). After a few years as president, Milligan gave up the position and taught in the university’s seminary. Milligan died in 1884.
After 110 years of existence, the IU Student Building is being renamed in honor of Frances Morgan Swain (Miller). But wait, what’s so special about this lady?
Frances “Fannie” Hannah Morgan was born in Knightstown, Indiana, in 1860. Her family appears to have been reasonably well-off (her father, Charles D. Morgan was, by turns, a lawyer, banker, and state representative), and they were members of the Fall Creek Monthly Meeting of Friends in Henry County. It is unclear when Frances met Joseph Swain, who was by turns a student (B.L.1883, M.S. 1885), professor of mathematics (1887-1891), and president (1893-1902) of Indiana University. One account by the Bloomington Courier stated that they met as students at Indiana, but there is no record of Frances’s attendance before 1887. What is certain is that they were married in September 1885, presumably after connecting over their joint Quaker heritage. And love of mathematics. Keep reading–you’ll see.
Compared to the women who preceded her as “first lady” of Indiana University, Frances was hardly the conventional president’s wife. Unlike her predecessors, she actually attended Indiana University, completing junior-level mathematics coursework over two years. She began her studies in 1887, the same year that Joseph was appointed an associate professor in the department. Even more unusual was that she did so as a married woman. She began studying in 1887, the same year that Meadie Hawkins Evermann became IU’s first married female graduate. Swain’s education took a detour when her husband was invited to join the faculty of the newly formed Stanford University in 1891–she completed her A.B. in Mathematics there in 1893.
Perhaps the most significant difference between Frances and her predecessors was her public and active commitment to effecting change on campus. When the Swains returned to Bloomington, Joseph as the new university president, Frances completed some graduate-level mathematics coursework, but soon turned her interests to the welfare of students, especially women, at the university. The historian Thomas Clark describes President Swain’s era at IU as one of rapidly increasing enrollments, which proved particularly challenging in the area of housing for female students–there was no women’s dormitory at the time, and private housing options in town were limited. Women arrived on campus from “strict homes…bound down by admonitions, taboos, and inhibitions,” and there were few means of support beyond sororities to “safely” navigate their new environment. Frances’s answer to the problem was the organization of a “Women’s League” dedicated to the self-improvement of its members as well as improving conditions for women on campus and in the Bloomington community.
Founded in 1895, the IU Women’s League was composed of women serving in various capacities on campus, including faculty, wives of faculty, members of campus clubs and sororities, and “unrepresented” female students–students who did not belong to a sorority or other club that provided housing or a support system. It provided educational and social programming for league members and the broader campus and Bloomington communities, including lectures, receptions, and dramatic performances. One of the League’s first speakers was Dr. Rebecca Rogers George, an Indianapolis physician who became a longtime, non-resident lecturer on female physiology and hygiene for the university. Over the years a variety of other speakers, including female educators, social reformers, and suffragists discussed current events and other topics of interest. Over time the mission of the Women’s League evolved, transitioning from a social club to a form of women’s student government.
One of Frances’s (and the League’s) most significant efforts on campus was the campaign for the construction of a Women’s Building on campus. Inspired by the existence of such facilities at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and other regional institutions, Frances and the Women’s League began raising funds so that female students at IU could have a building of their own. In March 1901, with $6500 in pledges under her belt, Frances appealed to the Board of Trustees to support the project, which she presented as a much-needed space for socializing, exercising, and relaxation. The Board responded with the following resolution:
Be it resolved, that the Trustees of the University most heartily endorsed the movement, presented and explained by Mrs. Swain, for the erection of a Women’s Building on the campus, and inasmuch as said building is to be erected entirely by private subscription, all friends of the University and of education generally are urged to aid Mrs. Swain and her association in their good work.
The campaign for the Women’s Building, essentially the first mass fundraising appeal by the university, ultimately found success through a generous matching donation offer by John D. Rockefeller. Sacrificed in the process, however, was the building’s status as a facility exclusively for women–it instead was built as the “Student Building,” and has remained so up until this week.
The Swains left Indiana when Joseph accepted the presidency of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. While the couple were doubtless as happy as, well, a pair of Quakers at a school for Quakers, their interest in the welfare of Hoosier Nation never ceased. Besides returning to campus for personal visits and university ceremonies, Frances and Joseph were the first donors to the post-World War I Memorial Fund, giving $500 each in 1921 and lobbying alumni to donate as well. In 1932, five years after Joseph died, Frances married John A. Miller, also a former faculty member of Indiana, Stanford, and Swarthmore. And a mathematics professor–see what I mean? But in Bloomington, she’ll always be remembered the most as Mrs. Joseph Swain.
As the existence of the Women’s League demonstrates, Frances Swain was not the only woman involved in promoting change on campus. The mere existence of women faculty and staff, however few, surely made a difference to the women who followed them. It is easy to overlook the legacy of women of Frances Morgan Swain’s era, when gendered social norms and expectations limited the ways they could participate in public life. The renaming of the Student Building this week is an important step to make sure they are not forgotten.
Indiana University has a really fun new series of commercials featuring some of our alumni with name recognition. The commercials flash back to their time on campus and talks about how they would not be where they are now if it weren’t for IU. The most recent release features Michael Uslan who earned his undergraduate (1973), master’s (1975) and law degrees (1976), all from IU. Today you may know him as one of Hollywood’s most accomplished movie producers and a Professor of Practice at IU’s Media School.
But in the 1970s, you may have just thought of him as a comic book geek. But what this comic book geek knew was that 1. He wanted to do something that would relate to his love of comics and 2. There was so much to be learned from this genre. Enter IU and its willingness to experiment.
In the late 1960s, the College of Arts and Sciences established a new “Experimental Curriculum” along with a committee to review and hear proposals. The first few rounds only brought proposals from faculty, but eventually the process was opened to students who had backing from a faculty member. Luckily for Uslan, he was going to school at the birthplace of Folklore studies in the United States. He approached Dr. Henry Glassie, then an Assistant Professor of Folklore, with his proposal of a for-credit course called “The Comic Book in Society.” In his book, The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir, Uslan says Glassie was supportive of the course proposal from the beginning. With the first hurdle conquered, Uslan next had his 15 minute appointment to convince the committee that this was a good idea.
As he writes in his memoir, it sounds like Uslan was entering a bit of a lion’s den (or, as he describes it, the Justice League of America’s Secret Sanctum). Uslan launched into his pitch outlining how he would approach the subject academically and offered his thoughts that the comic book was simply modern-day mythology. The Dean (or chair) scoffed at this so Uslan asked him if he could tell him a bit of the Biblical story of Moses. The Dean obliged. So then Uslan asked him to recount the story of Superman. The Dean began but before he got very far, a light came on and he said, “Mr. Uslan, your course is accredited.”
Uslan says before this he had been casually teaching other students about comic books for some time now and another IU student, Roger Stern, had also done some work to teach with comic books on campus. But this was his opportunity to create a full-fledged syllabus and to really bring attention to the genre. He taught his first class as a junior.
Thankfully, a good chunk of IU Professor Leo Solt’s records from his role as Chair of the Experimental Curriculum Committee found their way to the University Archives via History Department records. As a result, researchers today can review one of Uslan’s proposals, examine what other experimental courses were proposed, approved, and denied, and also, see Uslan’s letter to the committee with his recommendations on how to continue the popular course upon his graduation.
The course garnered national attention and Uslan found himself thrust into the media spotlight (well, he didn’t just “find” himself there. According to The Boy Who Loved Batman, Uslan actually called one media outlet disguised as a disgusted citizen ranting that such a course was being taught at Indiana University in a [successful] attempt to whip up some attention). By the time he graduated, the course had gone from a 1 credit course taught by Stern to a full 3 credit course.
In reviewing the syllabus, this was no cushy course. Students had recommended and required reading (required reading = comic books, such as Spiderman, Conan, and Mr. Miracle. If not available on the stands, students were instructed to see him to borrow from his extensive collection.) Class participation was required and graded assignments included a mid-term paper and a final project that entailed creating and drawing their own comic strip (“If you can’t draw, detailed stick figures will do”). Guest speakers from some of the major comic book companies were incorporated into the syllabus, as Uslan had contacts with many of them. His Fall 1972 syllabus says potential visitors included Buster Crabbe and Kirk Alyn!
That’s just a little taste of Uslan’s time here at IU. He also met his wife, paid for her engagement ring and living expenses by selling a large chunk of his comic book collection, had a popular radio show on WIUS that he and his co-host also performed live at parties (for a meaty $300 fee)…his IU story goes on. In recent years, Uslan has given back to the university that helped him get his start in many ways, but one from which YOU can directly benefit, right now, today, is the extensive collection of comic books, graphic novels, and personal papers he has donated to IU’s Lilly Library. A searchable database is available via their web site, along with a request form to view any of the materials.
In recognition of this event, the IU Archives would like to provide a glimpse into how the IU community reacted to this tragic event with some audio clips and quotes from the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project:
Jennifer Brinegar (’84), a local living in Bloomington at that time, recalls how her father, the mayor, worked with Herman B Wells to prevent another ‘Kent State’ here at IU in the wake of the shooting:
“I do know that when my dad was mayor he worked hand-in-hand with Herman Wells to prevent a Kent State, because that was in the late 60s early 70s. Right after Kent State, I don’t know if you would call it a riot, but there was a big protest on campus about Vietnam. So my dad was the city and Herman Wells was the university and together they talked it out so that it didn’t rise to the level of violence that they had at Kent State. It was scary at the time.”
Leonard Gardenour (’73) was studying Forensic Studies (now known as Criminal Justice) at the time and remembers the rallies in Dunn Meadow protesting the Vietnam War. He also recollects the boycotts following the devastating news of the shooting, describing how students surrounded Ballantine Hall and other buildings on campus, refusing to let people into the buildings:
Some students, however, felt that the boycotts were an ineffective method and chose to attend class instead. Marc Kaplan (’70) elected not to participate saying:
“I didn’t see how boycotting classes was going to end the war in Vietnam, so I went to classes because that’s what I was supposed to be doing…I was brought up to be a good boy, and didn’t get over that for a long time…Like decades.”
Dennis Royalty (’71), who was a reporter for the Indiana Daily Student at the time, remembers the exact moment he first heard about the shooting. In the following audio clip he describes how the controversy over the shooting dominated the paper and the effect this event had on the campus as a whole:
Hunt also recalls the “remember Kent State” march that occurred on campus the following year:
Beth Henkel (’74) started at IU a year after the Kent State massacre, but protests for the shooting and for Vietnam were still going strong. In April of 1971, she and a group of fellow students took buses to Washington DC to protest the Vietnam War. Find out more about her trip to DC and her experience spending the night on the White House lawn:
For more on Oral Histories and the Kent State Shooting, please join us today at 4pm in Hazelbaker Hall E159!
Plans for celebrating the Indiana University Bicentennial are well underway, especially with the incoming Class of 2020 arriving this fall. Many Signature Projects have been designed for IU’s Bicentennial, one of which is the Bicentennial Oral History Project. This project aims to collect histories from IU faculty, staff, and alumni university-wide. These oral histories provide a first-person perspective on the history of Indiana University available through no other source. The information collected from the participants can be used for research, teaching, and personal interest. Over 400 oral histories from IU alumni have already been collected as a part of this project. The Office of the Bicentennial and the Oral History Project Team are currently working to collect more oral histories and provide public access to them on the upcoming Indiana University Bicentennial website. The website will launch this week on September 9th.
The oral histories are collected through individual interviews either in-person or over the phone. The Oral History Project Team also attends events, where large amounts of alumni, staff, faculty, or retirees are available to share their stories. Recently, the team attended Cream and Crimson weekend to talk about the project with curious alumni, as well as listen to and record their personal histories from their days at IU.
Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive when conducting an oral history are, “Where will this recording go? Can anyone listen to it?” The oral histories collected for the Bicentennial will be uploaded, cataloged, and available on the upcoming Indiana University Bicentennial website, so that they are searchable and accessible to the public. The Oral History Project Team are working to implement software that will enable easy access to the oral histories collected for the Bicentennial.
Many people often say, “I don’t really have anything interesting to share. You wouldn’t want my story.” We absolutely do want your story, and the interviewer will kindly walk the interviewee through the process before they begin recording. The interviewer will also ask a set of questions, so that the interviewee is not simply expected to talk on their own. Each individual story plays a significant role in filling an important historical aspect of Indiana University. The oral histories provide a wonderful opportunity to illuminate the peoples’ history of Indiana University from all campuses and from all angles. Listen to and enjoy some Bicentennial Oral History snippets from Indiana University Alumni:
Harry Sax, graduating class of 1961. Indiana University – Bloomington.
Gloria Randle Scott, graduating class of 1959. Indiana University – Bloomington.
Michelle Sarin, graduating class 2009. Indiana University – Bloomington.
Sue Sanders, graduating class of 1981. Carlton Sanders, graduating class of 1972. Indiana University – Southeast.
If you would like to learn more about the project or share your story with us, you may contact Kristin Leaman, Bicentennial Archivist, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also receive updates about the Indiana University Bicentennial by following their Twitter and Facebook pages.