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From the Vault – Still Together: The Love Story of Otto and Mathilda Klopsch

This post was originally authored by IU Archives graduate assistant Shannon Larson (now Shannon Tanhayi Ahari) in 2012. Shannon now works as the Librarian/Curator for European Studies at UCLA Libraries.

According to IU legend, if a couple kisses within the Rose Well House at midnight on Valentine’s Day then that couple will stay together forever. Certainly the Rose Well House, with its charming façade and exquisite stained glass windows, is a romantic locale for any date. However, there is an even more romantic site on campus that not only has a love story to tell but is also the final resting place for two of IU’s students.

The IU sundial, now situated just outside of Maxwell Hall, inspires little notice from busy students and faculty members who trek by on their way to class. The sundial was presented to IU by the graduating class of 1868, and until 1896 it resided on the old campus near Second Street and College Avenue. This seemingly ordinary landmark played a key role in the lives of two IU students, Mathilda Zwicker and Otto Paul Klopsch. Mathilda and Otto met at the sundial, and while this may seem like just another unremarkable chapter in the sundial’s history, the more romantic at heart will see that the lives of Mathilda and Otto were inextricably linked to the sundial from their very first meeting. In 1896 the sundial was relocated to Maxwell Hall. That same year Mathilde and Otto graduated from IU and went on to marry.

Not much is known about the details of Mathilda’s and Otto’s life together. What we do know is that after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from IU, Otto went on to receive his master’s from the University of Wisconsin in Germanic languages and literature. For much of his professional life, he worked as a language teacher at a high school in Cleveland, Ohio. In a eulogy given by a friend and colleague, Otto was described not only as being an “inspiring” and knowledgeable teacher, but as “dignified in person, courteous, and pleasant.” Like her husband, Mathilda was admired and loved by many. One friend said of Mathilda, “She has left a path strewn with immortal memories of loyalty, courage, ability, and whole-hearted friendliness.” Together, the college sweethearts had two daughters and a son – Olga, Elsa and Otto, Jr. Mathilda and Otto were happily married for thirty-seven years, but in 1933 Mathilda passed away. Two years later Otto followed.

Mathilda and Otto often reminisced to their children about their college days, and so on July 3, 1935 Otto Klopsch Jr. met with President William Lowe Bryan and requested to spread his parents’ ashes at the base of the sundial. The request was granted, and shortly thereafter Otto, Jr. laid his parents to rest. Upon closer inspection one will notice a bronze plaque at the base of the sundial, which reads:

Mathilda Zwicker Klopsch
Otto Paul Klopsch
Class of 1896
They met at this sundial
when classmates.
Their ashes rest here
together until eternity.

The sundial has been worn by time and the elements, and today few students are familiar with the love story that surrounds this seemingly ordinary piece of IU history. However, if there is any location on IU’s campus that is worthy of a pause and a lovers’ kiss this Valentine’s Day, it is the sundial where two college sweethearts were brought together and are together still.

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