Exhibition recalls 75 years of campus history

KOKOMO, Ind. – From a junior college in a rented house, to a four-year college on its own campus, Indiana University Kokomo has grown and changed tremendously since its humble beginnings. 

The campus Art Gallery showcases moments in that history, in a new exhibition,75 Years in Pictures,which continues through Friday, October 18.

Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke opened the show Wednesday (September 11), sharing recollections from her own 40 years as a faculty member.

“The changes have been remarkable,” she said. “As I look back at the pictures, it brings back such great memories, of such wonderful faculty, staff, and students who have participated in our campus life. You will enjoy taking a look at these pictures, and seeing how far we’ve come.”

She highlighted some of the changes, including the renovations to the Main Building, the first built on the South Washington Street campus, to bring it into the 21stCentury, and the transition from mostly adult returning students to those of traditional college age.

Meg Galasso, information services librarian and campus archivist, led a brief verbal walk through the exhibit, starting with pictures from the early days in the Seiberling Mansion, continuing up to the present.

In addition to prints displayed on the gallery walls, there are thousands in two slide shows, one at the front of the gallery, and one at the back, with more available to view on the Flick account for the archives.

As exhibition planners selected pictures to feature, Galasso noticed several themes emerging, “themes that go all the way back to our beginnings, that I see either coming to fruition, or given new life now,” she said.

Those included the influence faculty have on students, a commitment to high-quality education, diversity of the campus community, and people dedicated to bringing a global perspective to Kokomo.

She pointed out Commencement regalia that belonged to Virgil Hunt, the first director, and retold the story of his arrival from Maryland late in the day to start what would become IU Kokomo, only to find the building locked. According to campus legend, he crawled in through a window, and spent the night there.

The days in the Seiberling come with stories of dealing with bats and birds in the mansion’s second and third floors, and laughter in recalling the student lounge in the basement, furnished with one television set and second-hand furniture. 

Four-year degrees became available after moving to the current campus, but almost came to a halt when the Indiana Commission for Higher Education moved for IU regional campuses to become two-year degree feeder programs for the flagship campus in Bloomington.

IU Kokomo students gathered 20,000 signatures in less than a week, and invited commissioners to Havens Auditorium to plead their case.

“Student after student, alumni after alumni, and community leader after community leader spoke about the importance of this institution,” Galasso said. “People here have been committed to this campus from the beginning.”

She highlighted pictures of the Well House as well, noting its previous home was in front of the Elliott House and Seiberling Mansion. Students insisted it be moved to the current campus shortly after it opened, and participated in taking it down and reconstructing it.

In the 1990s, students raised money to have the structure renovated as well, and Galasso encouraged everyone to take a walk behind the Main Building to see it.

“The students from 75 years ago used to see the Well House,” she said. “It’s a wonderful piece of history that lives with us now.”

Pictures in the exhibition, grouped in 25-year segments, provide a visual journey from the earliest years to the present. It includes faculty, staff, and students, and features events including Commencement, renaissance fairs, athletic competitions, registration, and classes.

It ends with Sciame-Giesecke’s favorite photo, taken in August, with the newest students arranged to form a “75.”

“Here is our newest freshman class, getting ready to start us on our next 75 years,” she said. “I wonder what they will say about all of us 75 years from now.”

The IU Office of the Bicentennial provided funding for digitizing equipment that allowed for digitization of print photos, slides, negatives and other materials, allowing them to be shared.

The Art Gallery is in the IU Kokomo Library Building, 2300 S. Washington St. Admission is free, and free parking is available on campus. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays; noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and closed Sundays and Fridays.

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