Bang! Zoom! KaPow! Comic books in the classroom

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.

Michael Uslan in the classroom. (Or, you know, an actor. Not really Michael Uslan.) Click on the image to view commercial on YouTube!

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 fall '72 course proposal
The fall ’72 course proposal

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.

September 1972. Uslan (on right) with teaching assistant Larry Goltz.

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.

May 8, 1976, Law School commencement.  KaPow!

IU Alumni Remember the Kent State Shootings


Simpson_flyer_09-12-16_KBL_FINALToday at 4:oo pm, the Indiana University Archives and the Center for Documentary Research and Practice are co-sponsoring a talk by Craig Simpson, Lilly Library Manuscripts Archivist, based on his recently published book Above the Shots: An Oral History of the Kent State Shootings. Simpson utilized the Kent State Shootings Oral Histories collection for his book. The lecture will take place in Wells Library’s Hazelbaker Hall, room E159.

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:

Marc Kaplan
Marc Kaplan (’70)

“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:

Linda Hunt (’70) remembers seeing John Filo’s Pultizer Prize-winning photograph on The Newsweek magazine saying “…it looked like, surreal. Well, I mean the whole event was surreal; there’s no doubt about that.”

kent-state newsweek cover photo
Cover for May 1970 Newsweek Magazine Credit:

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!

Indiana University Bicentennial Oral History Project


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.

Katie manning the Oral History booth at Cream & Crimson Weekend.
Katie at the Oral History booth during Cream & Crimson Weekend.

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.

IU Alumnus, Brian Brase, getting ready to share his story.
IU Alumnus, Brian Brase, getting ready to share his story.

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 You can also receive updates about the Indiana University Bicentennial by following their Twitter and Facebook pages.


Sincerely Yours – The Dwyers and V-J Day: “That was our celebration.”

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the swift entry of the United States into World War II, the Indiana University Bloomington campus quickly transformed itself to participate in the war effort. On December 13, 1941 President Herman B Wells addressed the anxious students of the University saying:

In this crisis, every patriotic American wishes to make a contribution to the defense of the nation and victory. In keeping with the tradition established in other wars, the students of the University are naturally eager to do their share….Some of you will be chosen for service in the army as rapidly as needed…But most of you will have to serve elsewhere….Most of you, therefore, can serve best through devoting extra time to the matters at hand. Study a little more, use the library a little more, use the laboratory apparatus a little more, learn a little faster….

University administrators, faculty and staff joined the Indiana Committee for Victory and the College Civilian Morale Service to encourage widespread participation “in all types of military activities” and the University quickly adopted a three semester academic plan so that the traditional four year program could be completed in two and two-thirds years in an effort to graduate as many students as possible before they were called to active military duty. By the end of 1942, U.S. Navy yeoman, WAVES, SPARS, and Marines were training on campus and the in 1943 the University signed a contract with the the US Army for an Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) unit. In addition, hundreds of men and women affiliated with IU (either current students or alumni) were called to active service in the various branches of the military.

Dwyer005Between 1941 and 1945, Margaret “Meg” Shaw Dwyer (BA Psychology 1941) continued to correspond with her university days mentor Frank Beck (advisor to the Student Religious Cabinet and the Town Hall Club) to share personal milestones and heartache of she and her husband, Robert “Bob” Arthur Dwyer (BS Business 19Wedding_Page_142). These included the announcement of their wedding, birth of their child, and the glorious news that Bob, presumed dead after being shot down over France, had been released from his POW camp and that the couple had been enjoying a recuperative vacation in Vermont when they heard the news of the war’s end on September 2, 1945.



The Dwyers lived an active and full life filled with family, work, travel, lifelong learning, and even glider flights following the war. Meg passed away at the age of 95 in 2014. Her beautifully written obituary gives us just a taste of the woman she had become.

Sally A. Lied and Social Conscience at IU

The University Archives recently received a generous donation of materials documenting social movements at IU in the late 1960s and Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign from IU Alumnus Sally A. Lied (MS Education, 1963; Ed.D., 1972; JD 1974). The gift coincided with the recent digitization of a recording of Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s April 24, 1968 address at the IU Auditorium,

Foster Quad Seminar on Black America
Bob Johnson, leader of IU African American Association, teaching at the Foster Quad Seminar on Black America. Johnson also team-taught Upward Bound with Sally Lied. One of his published articles on race relations in the US is also included in the collection.

The 1960s at IU, as well as the rest of the country, saw a surge of student involvement in social justice issues. Sally Lied, in her position as a residential counselor at Foster Quad and director of the Foster Project (IU’s first living-learning community), observed, participated in, and designed educational programming around some of these movements. Specifically, the materials Lied has donated to the University Archives relate to IU students’ grappling with the aftermath of the Vietnam War and race relations in the United States.

These social movements also extended to reforming education. At IU, this meant the establishment of the Foster Project, the first living-learning community. It also meant programs like Project OK (Orientation to Knowledge), which brought students and faculty together to discuss important academic issues. IU also began participating in Upward Bound, a national program designed to help low-income or first-generation students bridge the gap between high school and college. Sally Lied was active in all three of these developments, and each are documented in her collection.

Upward Bound 1969

The 1968 presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy was fueled by some of the discontent of these social movements, discontent that was exacerbated by the assassination of both Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the same year. Lied worked with the staff of Kennedy’s campaign in Indiana, and her collection contains a variety of campaign and press materials, including buttons, stickers, leaflets, and another recording of Kennedy’s speech at IU. The collection also contains personal correspondence with Kennedy’s campaign staff following his assassination and artwork by an IU student reaArtworkcting to Kennedy’s and King’s deaths.

The materials could be of great interest to those curious to study 20th century African-American experience, social and political movements of the 1960s, or the beginnings of the living-learning community program and other educational reforms at IU. In addition to these primary materials, Sally Lied included her own explanatory notes to go along with many of the files to provide context.

To view the Sally Lied papers in person contact the University Archives.