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.”
Over the past few weeks, I looked for love in all the right places, namely, within the University Archives! On February 1, the Archives sponsored a Pop-Up! exhibit, “Love and Friendship in the Archives.” In honor of Valentine’s Day, the exhibit examined love and friendship contained in the Archives’ collections. I worked on the exhibit, which allowed me to discover part of the long history of love at IU.
On one hand, I learned about IU traditions and campus spots associated with love. For instance, there was the Board Walk, a path that crisscrossed the Old Crescent, stretching from Indiana Avenue to Forest Place (now home to Ballantine) and was known in the early decades of the twentieth century as the “lover’s lane” of campus. There is also the “Spooning Wall” or the “Lovers’ Wall,” which still stretches along Third Street. Hoagy Carmichael is said to have found his inspiration for “Stardust” while sitting on the Lovers’ Wall.
But more important were the personal glimpses that I got into the lives of IU students and faculty. The Archives contains many scrapbooks from students who documented the love and friendship they found here. One set of scrapbooks belonged to Doris Joan Richards Neff, who attended IU from 1945 to 1949. She put together a scrapbook for each year she was at IU, filled with mementos from dances, parties, and even impromptu taco dinners with friends. While a student, Joan met Franklin Neff, and the two married after graduation. Joan kept all kinds of things related to her romance with Frank, including parts of the gifts he gave her, dried roses she received for their anniversaries, and Valentines from Frank and his mother.
Believe it or not, students weren’t the only ones expressing their love at IU – apparently, faculty sometimes find love too! Perhaps my favorite examples are in the Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers and the Avis Tarrant Burke papers. All three Hennel sisters – Cecilia, Cora, and Edith – were students at IU in the 1900s, and all three taught on the faculty at various times. In 1913, Cecilia resigned as an instructor in the English Department in order to marry John Hendricks, and the two moved to Wyoming to run a bee farm. Being so far away didn’t stop Cecilia from keeping close ties with the rest of her family. The Hendricks family kept up a lively correspondence, and in a letter of February 17, 1914, Cecilia wrote that in one day, she received 11 letters, one card, and a package in the mail! The family papers are full of Valentines from daughter to mother, daughter to father, and from the whole family to their grandfather. In later life, when Cecilia returned to IU to teach in the English Department, she was so beloved by her students that some of them sent her Valentine cards and even flowers.
For sheer romance, though, you almost can’t beat the tenderness that existed between Avis Tarrant Burke and her husband, Robert E. Burke. Avis Tarrant married her old friend Robert in 1916 and moved to Bloomington to be with him. Robert was an assistant professor of Fine Arts, and Avis taught at the McCalla school and eventually worked at the University Extension Division. The two traveled together extensively, including to Europe, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest. Avis kept travel diaries that documented their adventures together, as well as personal diaries that documented less sensational “adventures.” For February 14, 1942, she wrote in her diary about two “events” for the day: Robert gave her a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day and that she spent the morning cleaning out the closets!
Whenever the two were apart, they wrote very touching letters and poems to each other. One letter that Robert wrote to Avis reads, “Darling One: Perhaps this is silly to write to you when you are right downstairs now – but I want you to have this line from me just as soon as you get to Winsted [Connecticut] – all it says is that I love you more all the time and shall miss you very much. However, we’ll both keep very busy & so try to make the times pass quickly. xxxxxx Robert.” Avis wrote poems expressing how lonely she was walking down the streets of Chicago without Robert, as well as poems such as “To My Valentine of Twenty Years.” It seems like the love and affection that Avis and Robert had for each other never faded.
But perhaps the most touching example of unfading love that I saw was the drafts of a poem by Philip Appleman, a prolific writer and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English. His papers include drafts of a poem he wrote for his wife Marjorie. Originally entitled “A Poem for Beautiful Breasts,” in later drafts the title of the poem changed to “Mastectomy.” Appleman seems to have written the poem while his wife was undergoing surgery. He imagines the procedure to himself, and then concludes the poem with the powerful lines, “I will love her more / than yesterday.”
Part of the beauty of a place like the IU Archives is that love never dies.
Happy Valentine’s Day! I thought today would be perfect for delving into some of the “schmoopier” materials in our collection, which brought to mind our Avis Tarrant Burke papers. Avis, active within the IU Extension Division, was the wife of Fine Arts professor Robert E. Burke. Her papers reflect her life of travel and philanthropic endeavors through travel diaries, correspondence, and awards, but also included are papers passed on to Avis by her mother and namesake, Avis Booth.
This letter, written in 1858 by Cuban immigrant Andres Moynelo, is just one of 19 letters written to both Avis and her mother from August through December. All of them carry the same message – when will you love me, Avis? We do not have any of the letters Avis wrote to him, but his responses indicate that the 14 year old was just. not. interested. The last Moynelo letter in our collection, dated December 4, may very well have been his final correspondence with Avis, as the tone carries with it a touch of resignation.
Nevertheless, this letter, written early in his courtship of Avis, couldn’t be more appropriate for this day of love. Enjoy!
Stratford Aug 30th 1858
Avis beautiful and loved,
I am thinking that if you should not see me for one month, you would forget me, but my heart tells me that you shall be faithfull till the last moment of death.
I have sworn to be yours in preference to any other woman and if it is not so I shall be unfortunate all my life.
You are the girl that has inspired to me the most ardent love in the world and consequently you must be the girl that I shall love all my life.
I do not know wether [sic] you will love me or not. I do not know but that you have not told me that you love me, to see if I am constant, the time shall tell you that to you, if you love me you shall see me occupied in you, if you do no love me you will see me succumb to the tomb.
I remain sobbing and thinking that I have but a few days longer to see you, but that is for a short time only, because if you are going to another place I shall go there for the pleasure of contemplating your beautifull [sic] form, which makes me suffer in such a manner.
Handsome Avis, I want you to tell me where you are going in November, the place, the street, and the number of the house for I want in December or in January to have the pleasure to see you.
I suplicate to you, that you tell me what directions I must have in the letters which I send to you.
I suplicate to you this, for to know of your health, and to show you that I will never forget you.
You will please excuse the faults what this contains.