From the Arkansas Delta to Indiana University Administration: The Charlie Nelms Papers, 1967-2016

Charlie Nelms is an unparalleled force in higher education. From his early days as a graduate student at Indiana University to his executive leadership roles at IU and beyond, Nelms has deeply affected the landscape of higher education in the United States. I had the absolute pleasure of processing the Charlie Nelms papers, 1967-2016 (Collection C701) at the University Archives. This collection of writings, correspondence, reports, publications, audiovisual recordings, and ephemera documents Nelms’ life as a great leader, activist, orator, and educator. The potential uses of this collection are expansive. Anyone interested in diversity and race in higher education, university administration, philanthropy, public speaking, community outreach, mentorship, or memoir writing should definitely make use of this collection.

Charlie Nelms is shown sitting and reading a document.
Charlie Nelms, 1988. IU Archives Photograph Collection, P0028387

Charlie Nelms was born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas (in the Arkansas Delta) in 1946. Nelms was one of eleven children born to subsistence farmers and community organizers. Throughout his career and in his publications today, Nelms has reflected on growing up in the Arkansas Delta during the Jim Crow era. Many of these reflections appear in the Charlie Nelms papers, especially in the “Speeches” series (my favorite part of the collection). These anecdotes provide a powerful context to understand just how important his leadership at IU has been. Nelms shared a couple such anecdotes at the Black History Month Closing Reception at IU in 2005:

“Growing up in the Delta Region of Arkansas at a time when African Americans weren’t as fully integrated into society as they are today, Negro History Week took on special significance for my rural classmates and me. Back then you seldom saw a black face on television. In fact, very few black people even owned a television set. Popular programs included Amos and Andy, the Friday night boxing match, church sponsored box suppers and Sunday worship. And yes, there was the mourner’s bench, getting religion and being baptized in the local creek. As for me, I got religion and was baptized in a local lake known as Buck Lake. As painful as our history is, including everything from the middle passage to slavery, emancipation, segregation, desegregation, and integration, it is a history that we dare not forget lest we repeat it.”

In a 2004 speech for the Black Alumni Weekend at University of Kansas, Nelms detailed:

“School was some place you went after the cotton crop was harvested;

Decided I wanted to make the world a better place rather than wasting my energy on being angry;

Although my parents were barely literate, they had an abiding faith in education; Mama and Papa told us to get a good education because no one could take it away from you;

I know from experience that education is the engine of opportunity. The research is clear, unless you are born rich, education is the best vehicle for improving the quality of life for individuals, communities, and nations.”

These are important points to understand Nelms’ narrative: he has long understood education as the core of a just, democratic society. The biographical note on his personal website, www.charlienelms.com, states it succinctly:

“While poverty and discrimination shaped Charlie as he sought to escape their grip, he has never felt the need to escape his responsibility for eradicating their pernicious effects. Charlie deeply believes that equity and excellence are core principles of democracy, and both are achievable.”

For his undergraduate degree, Nelms stayed close to home and attended University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. After he received his B.S. in chemistry and agronomy there in 1968, he came to IU for his graduate work. He received an M.S. in higher education and student affairs in 1971 and an Ed.D. in higher education administration in 1977. The “Personal” series of the collection contains some materials from his graduate school days, such as newspapers and articles he used for research.

Like so many in academia, Charlie Nelms worked for many different universities throughout his career. After graduate school, Nelms worked at IU Northwest as a Professor of Education and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 1978-1984. The “Other Institutions” series of the collection includes teaching files, reports, and tenure dossier materials from his time at IU Northwest. The series also documents his next job as Vice President for Student Services at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. In 1987, Nelms was hired as Chancellor and Professor of Education at IU East (in Richmond, Indiana). The Indiana University East series documents his time there from 1987-1994. The series provides a window into IU East at the time, including a campus dialogue on race in America, efforts to increase black student enrollment, and general strategic planning efforts. The series also contains materials (including a lovely photo album) from Nelms’ cultural ambassador trip to a Japanese primary school in 1991.

Charlie Nelms sits at a desk. Two women and two men stand nearby. On the desk are pieces of paper with Japanese character calligraphy.
Charlie Nelms tries his hand at calligraphy while on a cultural ambassador trip to Japan, 1991.

In 1994 Nelms left Indiana entirely to become Chancellor and Professor of Education at University of Michigan-Flint, a position he served in until 1998. His time in Flint is documented in the “Speeches” series through transcripts and notes from speeches he gave at area community organizations—including the Urban League of Flint, the Flint Neighborhood Coalition, the Flint Public Library, Flint Community Schools, and Mott Community College.

In 1998, Nelms became a Hoosier again and began serving as Vice President for Institutional Development and Student Affairs at IU Bloomington (he served in this role until 2007). During his service here, Nelms led a team of university administrators from across the country to design and implement 20/20: A Vision for Achieving Equity and Excellence at IU-Bloomington. 20/20 implemented a host of recommendations made by Nelms’ team on how IU could ensure the campus actively promoted a racially and ethnically diverse student, faculty, and administrative body. Nelms embodied the goals of this plan throughout his leadership on Bloomington’s campus, particularly through collaborative efforts to fund diversity initiatives. He worked with Purdue University to secure a $3 million National Science Foundation grant to increase minority enrollment in STEM fields; helped secure $26 million in funding to construct and dedicate the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center; and launched the $5 million Jimmy Ross Endowment Fund for Diversity Initiatives. Materials across the Nelms papers document these efforts and more.

Charlie Nelms stands with his wife and young son outside.
Charlie Nelms with his wife, Jenetta, and his son, Rashad, 1988. IU Archives Photograph Collection P0028383.

Nelms left Bloomington in 2007 to become Chancellor at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a public, historically black university (or HBCU). The “Other Institutions” series contains notes, reports, and publications from his tenure at NCCU. Although he officially retired from NCCU in 2012, Nelms has remained an active author, public speaker, and consultant. His books include Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned (Bookmasters, 2004) and From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie (Indiana University Press, 2019). A portion of the proceeds from From Cotton Fields to University Leadership are donated to HBCU scholarships.  In 2019, Nelms was awarded an honorary doctorate from IU for his exemplary leadership.

As I mentioned, my favorite part of the Charlie Nelms papers remains the “Speeches” series. Not only does it reveal the depth and breadth of his community engagement, it shows how Nelms has woven his commitment to justice and education throughout his career. Even beyond this series, however, the Charlie Nelms papers documents a life and career we should all aspire to. As our late winter doldrums trudge on, it’s easy to become stressed and disheartened with our workloads as university students and employees. I urge you to check out this collection when you need a reminder of why your education and work (here at IU, at another university, or anywhere, really) matters for the betterment of our democracy. If you are interested in viewing this collection, please feel free to contact us and set up an appointment!

A Day in the Life: Pauline Day’s University Years Through Her Scrapbook

A picture is worth a thousand words. I would argue that a scrapbook is therefore worth tens of thousands of words. Scrapbooks are ways for people to collect photos, objects, and other items they deem important in order to reminisce on them later. Of course, as years go by, the value of the scrapbook changes. For modern researchers, scrapbooks become windows into a world that does not exist anymore, or at least one that is very different.

Pauline Day pictured with two unknown men
Pauline Day (foreground), circa 1915.

Pauline Day’s scrapbook is no different. She lived in Indiana her entire life, starting when she was born in Dunkirk, Indiana in 1894. She and her parents lived in Winchester for most of her life. She came to Indiana University in the fall of 1912 to get her degree in English, though she also took several courses in education. Looking in the Arbutus yearbook of 1916, one might wonder what Pauline did in her spare time, considering she was not part of any student group or sorority chapter. For all intents and purposes, it seemed like she wasn’t very involved in anything. Her scrapbook tells a different story.

Continue reading “A Day in the Life: Pauline Day’s University Years Through Her Scrapbook”

Josephine Grima: IU’s First Mexican Student

Photograph of Josephine Grima in nurse's uniform
Josephine Grima, 1917 IU Arbutus yearbook

The year 1917 saw the first class of nurses graduate from the new IU Training School for Nurses, part of the School of Medicine in Indianapolis since 1914. Among those five women was one who could claim another “first”–Josephine Grima (1892?-1993), the first student to enroll at IU from Mexico.

Born around 1892 in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, Grima was apparently encouraged by members of a Society of Friends mission from Indiana to return home with them to complete her medical training. After nine months of preparatory work, Josephine entered the three-year graduate nurses program in the fall of 1914.

During their three years of training, which mainly took place at the Robert W. Long Hospital, Grima and the other nursing students experienced a rigorous routine of “full-time duty in the wards and classrooms.” Types of courses ranged from the preliminary classes on biology, anatomy and physiology, hygiene, sanitation, and household economics to senior term lectures on obstetrics, children’s diseases, mental diseases, and social service.

Photograph of student nurses working in a laboratory
Students at the Training School for Nurses during the 1916-1917 academic year. From the 1917 IU Arbutus yearbook.

As Grima was finishing her final semester, the United States declared war on Germany, officially entering what would be known as World War I. Soon after graduating, she joined the U.S. Army Nurses Corps as a reserve nurse. While she never deployed overseas, she nevertheless saw her share of action during the devastating flu pandemic of 1918. She was first stationed at the army hospital in Markelton, Pennsylvania, before being transferred to Camp Devens near Boston, Massachusetts, in September 1918. At the time, the training camp was in desperate need of medical personnel: with over 10,000 cases in less than a month, it was the site of one of the largest influenza outbreaks in the U.S.

As part of the IU Alumni Association’s War Service Register project, Grima described her experience at Camp Devens. Although brief, it underscores some of the most basic challenges that Grima and her fellow nurses faced in a camp overflowing with patients:

…We report [sic] at the Base Hospt. where we had 15000 of cases of Pneumonia and Influenza where we had to suffer bad accomodation [sic] and bad prepared food. We were on duty [illegible] hours and had to stand in line three times a day for our meals, our beds consisted during the epidemic of straw tikets [tickets], two O. D. [olive drab] blankets and a sanitary cot. There were no place [sic] to accomodate [sic] 750 nurses that answer [sic] the call of the epidemic and for that reason we had to use for bedrooms the garage, the farmhouse, etc. We had a great diel [sic] of work and responsability [sic]…

Segment of Grima's IU War Service Register entry.
Introduction to Grima’s IU War Service Register form. View entire entry

Grima continued her nursing career for a time after the war, working at the Marine Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, before marrying and starting a family. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1922. One of her daughters, Dorothy Comstock Riley, became the first female justice to serve on the State of Michigan’s Court of Appeals (1973) and the first Hispanic woman to be elected a supreme court justice in any state (1985).

 

Joseph Hayes – Novelist, Playwright, Screenwriter

Joseph A. Hayes, c.a. 1987. IU Archives, C299, Box 31.

When discussing famous Indiana Authors, names such as James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Gene Stratton-Porter, and Kurt Vonnegut are the first to come up in conversation.  Yet, another Indiana Native who had a way with words is writer Joseph Hayes.  Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 2, 1918, Joseph Arnold Hayes was the first individual to write a novel, play, and screenplay from the same parent story, The Desperate Hours.

Joseph Hayes attended St. Meinrad Seminary High School in Saint Meinrad, Indiana, and Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, before coming to Indiana University with his wife, Marrijane Johnston, in 1938.  While at Indiana University, Hayes was head of the Drama Loan Service, a former department at the university, and helped establish the Brown County Playhouse, where he wrote and directed plays.  In 1949, he had his debut on Broadway with his play “Leaf and Bough.”  He would come to have a total of four plays enter the Broadway scene during his career.

News clipping, c.a. 1949. IU Archives, C299, Box 31.

Hayes wrote his most successful piece, The Desperate Hours, in 1954, and brought his novel to both Broadway and Hollywood the following year.  The Desperate Hours was a story of a fictional family living on Kessler Boulevard, which was terrorized by three desperadoes.  In an interview in 1987 over the novel, Hayes explained that The Desperate Hours “was written in truly desperate circumstances”:

“My influences were desperation. I wrote it in six weeks, working 16 to 17 hours a day. I did the thinking and took notes on the way down. (The situation in the novel) was the most dramatic thing I could think of that would relate to the most people.”

In 1955, Hayes won the first Indiana Authors Day Award for the most distinguished work of fiction by an Indiana Author.  In the same year, the Broadway play version won the Tony Award for Best Play, and Hayes won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay for the film version, starring Humphrey Bogart.  In 1990, The Desperate Hours film was remade, with Hayes once again participating as co-screenwriter.  Hayes stated:

Title page of The Desperate Hours; second printing, 1954. Herman B Wells Library, PS3515.A972 D4.

“Since I’m the only writer who has ever done novel, play and screenplay solo from a single work of his own I can’t let anyone else at it.”

Throughout his career, Joseph Hayes penned numerous articles, short stories, novels, plays, and screenplays, including pieces in collaboration with wife, Marrijane Johnston, who was also an author.  Together they wrote the novel Bon Voyage in 1956, eventually bringing it to Hollywood in 1962, where the husband and wife duo co-wrote the screenplay for the Walt Disney film of the same name, starring Fred MacMurray.  The hectic schedule from the film made Hayes miss the Indiana Authors Day luncheon in 1957 to celebrate his award from the previous year for The Desperate Hours:

Letter to Earl M. Hoff; January 25, 1957. IU Archives, C444, Box 2.

“Nothing would please me more than to be able to say that I could be there April 14th.  Unfortunately, I don’t know where I’ll be.  I’m working on the screenplay of the new book, Bon Voyage! — and may have to go to Italy to scout locations or to Hollywood to discuss the many details — as we want to shoot in May…”

Adapting his own writing to the theater became a hobby of Hayes’, once again adapting his 1967 novel, The Deep End, into a play.  Although writing for multiple formats, Hayes is quick to point out to Cecil K. Byrd, longtime librarian and faculty member at Indiana University, that just because someone enjoys one medium of work (books, films, plays, etc.), does not mean they enjoy the other.  In regards to his novel, The Deep End, Hayes wrote:

Letter to Cecil K. Byrd; May 20, 1967. IU Archives, C542, Box 5.

“I shall be in New York all of next week for promotion, interviews, exploitation, etc. as arranged by Viking.  A nuisance we both deplore, but apparently necessary.  I find it hard to believe that people who watch television also buy books, but apparently they do.  (It’s not set definitely, but will probably appear TODAY SHOW on May 31, pub-date.)”

To which Cecil Byrd responded:

“That promotion week in New York is a heavy drink!  Look behind you once or twice!  I’ll watch TODAY SHOW on May 31.  Hope it becomes definite.”

Letter to Joseph A. Hayes; May 24, 1967. IU Archives, C542, Box 5.

Although deemed by some as having an unsuccessful career as an author after the publication of The Desperate Hours, Hayes positively claimed:

“No book I’ve ever written could be considered a financial failure.”

In 1970, Indiana University awarded Hayes with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, and in 1972, the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.  Hayes died on September 11, 2006.  Through the suggestion of Cecil Byrd many years ago, Joseph Hayes’ collection materials, including letters, manuscripts, drafts, typescripts, first editions of books, other writings, and foreign translations, are now housed at the Lilly Library.  The Hayes, Joseph Arnold mss., 1941-1977 collection (LMC 2828) can be viewed at the Lilly Library by appointment.

“I am going to have a birthday party from two to four o’clock and I want you to come” – One of My Favorite Photographs

From Brad Cook, IU Archives Photographs Curator

While browsing an antique shop near Hanover, New Hampshire, a 1956 graduate of Indiana University came upon the photograph seen here. Recognizing the address found on the back of the image she purchased the image and donated it to the Indiana University Archives.

(Back Row, L to R) Mary Woodburn, Doris Hoffman, Martha Woodburn, Marjorie Davis, Dorothy Cunningham, Mary Louden, and Agnes Joyner. (Middle Row, L to R) Elizabeth Miller, Martha Buskirk, Ruth Dill, Carol Hoffman, Frieda Hershey, and Ruth Cravens. (Front Row, L to R) Margaret Faris, Pauline Reed, Dorothy Clough and Catherine Fletcher.

For a curator of photographs there is no image more appealing than one with a great deal of contextual information (e.g. names and date) and this image certainly fits into that category as the back side of the photograph gives us not only the names of those shown and the date taken, but also the event, the exact location of the event and even the name of the photographer. On top of that, a transcription of the original invitation is also present.

On February 12, 1902 Ruth Ralston Cravens held a birthday party in her home located at 222 East Fourth Street in Bloomington. Her stepmother sent out the following invitation to Ruth’s friends: “I will be four years old Wednesday, February 12, 1902. I am going to have a birthday party from two to four o’clock and I want you to come. I do not want you to bring or send me any presents. I just want you to come and play with me. Ruth Ralston Cravens.”

In response to the invitation, and according to a note written on the back of the image, sixteen girls attended the party and “…had a delightful time. Prof. John A. Stoneking, on Indiana University, took a photograph and each one of the guests received one as a souvenir of the occasion.”

The birthday girl was born on February 12, 1898 (her mother died eight days later). Ruth was graduated from IU in 1920 with a degree in English. From 1942-1956 she worked as an administrative assistant to IU President Herman B Wells. Ruth never married. She died January 20, 1982.

Ruth’s stepmother, Emma Lucille Krueger Cravens, worked in the IU Library and then as a secretary for IU President William Lowe Bryan.

Ruth’s father, John W. Cravens, graduated from IU in 1897. For many years he served as IU Registrar and Secretary to the IU Board of Trustees.

The photographer, John A. Stoneking, was graduated from Indiana University in 1898 with a degree in physics, he subsequently received his master’s degree from Indiana University in 1901 and from 1901-1905 he was an instructor in physics here before moving to Illinois where he died in 1923.

Others in the photograph known to have graduated from Indiana University are Mary Louden (AB 1919) and Frieda Hershey (AB 1921).