Oral histories from the IU LGBTQ+ community play an important role in documenting the university’s historical record, while amplifying the voices that are so often silenced and under-documented in our history. The oral history clips shared in this blog are just four of the many voices in the IU LGBTQ+ community within the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project. You can search and listen to many more oral histories and read their transcripts by visiting oralhistory.iu.edu.
Gary Shoulders graduated from Indiana University in 2007 with a B.S. from the School of Informatics. He shares his story of coming out to his friends while attending IU in the following clip:
Bruce Smail is an IU alumnnus, as well as the Interim Director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and the Special Assistant to the VP of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs at Indiana University. Bruce shares his memories of being involved in the LGBTQ+ Culture Center during his student years at IU here:
Doug Bauder is the former founding Director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center at Indiana University. Doug remembers the founding of the first GLBT Student Center at IU and the impact it had in the following clip:
Mara Bernstein is an IU alumna and the Advancement Associate for the IU Libraries. Mara speaks about her involvement with the IU LGBTQ+ Alumni Association and the IU Queer Philanthropy Circle here:
If you would like to share your story or obtain transcripts of the oral history clips in this post, please contact Kristin Leaman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Indiana University Archives had the honor of assisting Lori Korngiebel and Don Hahn in their quest for archival materials on IU alumnus, Howard Ashman, for their documentary Howard. Director of Howard, Hahn is also a film producer who has produced some of Disney’s most beloved animated films, such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Korngiebel, producer of Howard, has worked on several Disney films and served as Associate Producer for Maleficent and the soon-to-be-released Cruella.
We are so pleased to share that Lori and Don were kind enough to answer a few questions about their research process as they worked on Howard!
Can you tell me about your archival research process? What repositories did you visit?
We were fortunate because Howard’s estate had gifted his archives to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Don and I started our journey there and spent days excitedly going through archival boxes, finding hidden treasures from Howard’s life (such as his handwritten notes during the “Little Shop” casting process and an audio recording of Howard talking to the “Little Mermaid” directors, Ron Clements and John Musker).
After we left the LOC, Don and I traveled to NYC were we interviewed Howard’s friends and family, who were also so generous to share photos and videos with us. So, between the LOC and our F&F interviews, we went back to California with a strong foundation to begin building the documentary.
From there, as we began editing the film, Don and I would do research online, reaching out to the people and places that Howard may have had contact with during his life and career. The Indiana University Archives was one of the places we reached out to when we happened upon Kristin Leaman’s Howard Ashman blog post during our online research.
What are some of your exciting archival finds for this documentary?
We knew that Howard had done interviews at THE LITTLE MERMAID junket in Walt Disney World but after searching high and low we were not able to find any of them. Tragically, the 80s are a black hole of lost video tape archives and we had all but given up. Then, one day Don Hahn received a phone call at the office from a colleague saying they had found an audio cassette from the MERMAID junket that they believed had Howard interviews on it. Well, after literally YEARS of searching, we jumped on it and were over the moon when we heard Howard and Alan (Menken) answering questions. It may not have been video but that audio was like GOLD to us!
Did you find any archival materials that significantly impacted the film in a way you were not expecting?
We were told that Howard had learned about his HIV diagnosis on the same day that he spoke at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. We discovered that the Y did not video tape lectures back then but they did record audio and lucky for us they were able to find that audio. With this discovery we knew we would have to find a way to show the significance of this lecture. No one there knew what Howard and his partner Bill had just been told and it is gut wrenching to listen to the interview with the understanding that he is keeping it together, answering questions and making people laugh all while grappling with this horrible news.
What is the most exciting thing you discovered in the Indiana University Archives?
One of our most exciting archival finds came from the IU Archives! We were told there could be a local interview with Howard when he came to the University to see their production of LITTLE SHOP in 1987. When we received the footage we were THRILLED. Our goal was always to have Howard tell his story as much as possible in the film and there he was in an interview that probably hadn’t been seen in over 30 years. It was amazing!
Why was doing archival research and including archival materials in the documentary so important to you?
This is the story of an amazing man, who during his short time on earth, changed the lives of millions (and continues to do so) through his lyrics and songs. In order to do Howard justice, we needed to ensure that we uncovered every lyric, photo, interview and song so the audience could know the man who created the songs we already love and by doing so, fall in love with him, too.
Is there anything that you want people to know about the documentary?
I just feel so lucky to have worked on the film. Like our audience, I never met Howard in person, I only knew him from his work. But, because of the generosity of Don, Sarah (Howard’s sister), Bill (Howard’s partner) and countless other friends and family who donated their time, love and memories to the film… I feel like I do know Howard now and I am blessed to consider him a friend.
The Indiana University Bicentennial Oral History Project has collected over 1,000 interviews from alumni, current and retired faculty and staff at all 7 I.U. campuses. Voices remembering the good and difficult times at their alma mater provide a rich and often emotional history of the university. Memories of student protests, professors, favorite hangouts, national events, and football games are among the many stories shared over the years. When asked if they remembered a specific event on campus that impacted their life, Ruth DiSilvestro, Audrey Beckley, and Joan Keck had the same answer: they fell in love with their husbands at Indiana University.
Ruth DiSilvestro (M.A. 1971) vividly remembers living in Eigenmann Hall and meeting her future husband in the cafeteria. Listen below to Ruth’s sweet story on how they met:
Audrey Beckley (B.S. 1964) remembers meeting her husband, Ken Beckley (B.S. 1962), at the Fall Carnival and marking on Ken’s senior cords with chalk. The Beckleys also established the Kenneth A. Beckley and Audrey J. (Hofelich) Beckley Media Technology Fund at the I.U. Media School and have a studio named after them in the school. Listen below to hear Audrey tell her heartwarming story of how she met Ken:
Joan Keck (B.S. 1956) tells a funny story about how she met her husband, David Keck (B.S. 1956, J.D. 1959) at the Freshman Mixer held in Alumni Hall. While dancing with her date, a young man cut-in; that same young man would become her husband during her senior year. Listen below to hear Joan reminisce about meeting David at the Freshman Mixer:
Listening to stories of love is a common theme throughout the I.U. Bicentennial oral histories. People express love and gratitude for their friends, family, classes, professors, campus, Herman Wells, and Bloomington; the list could go on. And as Ruth DiSilvestro says in the last lines of her oral history when reflecting on I.U., “It’s certainly touched our lives in many important ways.”
While the Lilly Library will celebrate its 57th birthday this October, planning for the exceptional library began over 60 years ago. Herman B Wells was dedicated to developing a great library that would house rare books and manuscripts at Indiana University and provide access to these materials. Wells states in his speech at the library’s dedication, “We rejoice in this day for many reasons. Not the least of these is the fact that many of the rare books and manuscripts housed in this new building have for years been stored in the University’s central Archives, unavailable for use. At long last they may now be used!” Access and use of special collections was important to Wells, and the Lilly Library is still known today for its open access policy.
Josiah Kirby Lilly was also very excited about the prospect of his own impressive collection being housed in a library with his namesake on the Indiana University campus.
David Randall was appointed as the first librarian for the Lilly Library well before its opening in 1960. Prior to his appointment, Randall worked in the antiquarian book trade, where he met Mr. Lilly. Randall was an important figure not only in the planning of the library, but in the custodianship of collections. He knew the materials well, and he knew what to collect; moreover, he had established connections to book dealers. Below is a letter discussing the acquisition of the Mendel Collection, one of the Lilly’s many notable collections.
Mr. Lilly even notes in a letter to Randall “you are as good a purchasing agent as you formerly were a salesmen – far excellence!” in regards to a new acquisition (possibly the Mendel Collection) he secured.
The dedication of the Lilly Library was October 3, 1960. Many people were in attendance, and speeches were delivered by Herman B Wells and Frederick B. Adams, Jr., Director of the Morgan Library. Wells stated, “It is, therefore, a source of satisfaction for this entire Midwestern region, as it is for the nation, that here in the heartland of America has been established another one of our great national depositories of the written treasures of our culture -which we trust will take its place in due course alongside the most famed such centers of our Atlantic and Pacific coasts.” Wells’ foresight was right, as the Lilly Library has undoubtedly taken its place alongside the renowned special collections libraries.
“Mr. Lilly, I am happy to present to you this key to the Library so that you may now unlock its doors–and so that you may be able at any time to enter the Lilly Library and be with its books!” – Herman B Wells
Many students today do not immediately recognize Howard Ashman’s name when mentioned as a notable Indiana University alumnus; however, they do recognize Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Little Shop of Horrors. Ashman wrote the lyrics and Alan Menken wrote the music for all four of those titles, winning several Academy Awards and Grammy Awards. They took home an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1986 for Little Shop of Horrors, in 1989 for The Little Mermaid, and in 1991 for Beauty and the Beast. They won the Grammy Award in 1990 for The Little Mermaid, in 1993 for Beauty and the Beast, and in 1994 for Aladdin.
Howard Ashman graduated from Indiana University in 1974 with his M.A. from the Department of Theatre and Drama. He accomplished many creative achievements during his time at IU, including writing the screenplay and music for Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queenin 1973. A letter to Ashman from R. Keith Michael, Chair of the Department of Theatre and Drama, highlights some of his accomplishments as well as his stellar reputation in the department.
After his graduation in 1974, Ashman would not return to Indiana University until April 1987. He was invited to give a lecture and see a performance of Little Shop of Horrorsproduced by the IU Department of Theatre and Drama.
In April 1987, Ashman returned to the same stage he had been on in
1973 at Indiana University, saying it had been “Fourteen years and a lifetime.” He told the Herald-Times on April 19, 1987, “The distance between Bloomington and New York is a life-time. It’s been a very emotional thing for me to come back. I was an actor at IU, and I haven’t acted since I left here. But I have very intense memories of this place, and of the people who changed my life here. This building vibrates for me. There are ghosts here for me.”
As seen in his agenda below, Ashman spent much of his visit in-and-out of interviews and had lunch and an informal chat with IU theatre students before seeing IU Theatre’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. Sources say that Indiana University was the first university granted permission to stage a performance of Little Shop of Horrors thanks to Ashman.
Howard Ashman passed away on March 14, 1991, shortly after completing his work on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. While he passed well before his time, Ashman’s lyrics live on in some of America’s most beloved animated and theatrical characters. And for one brief moment in April 1987, he made IU part of his world.