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The History of IUPUI

History : The Making of IUPUI

A history of the origins and formation of IUPUI

by Ralph D. Gray, Professor Emeritus of History

It all began rather inauspiciously. Upon an invitation in 1891 from a number of college graduates living in Indianapolis, Indiana University sent a young professor to offer a class in economics. Accordingly Jeremiah W. Jenks, then a newcomer to Bloomington who went on to a distinguished career in New York, traveled to the capital city weekly to present about a dozen lectures to his class on Friday evenings. For those enrollees seeking university credit (two hours) for the course, there was also a required quiz and discussion session the following morning.

Jenks's pioneering course led to others--in history, sociology, English--as Indiana participated in the phenomenon known as the "extension movement." Pioneered by Cambridge University in England in the 1860s, it reached the United States in the 1880s and was discussed at a national conference in Philadelphia in 1892, which at least one Indiana University professor attended. The movement in Indiana, however, nearly became just a momentary fad, for the "extended" professors soon tired of their long hours of difficult travel and extra weekend work. Moreover, as Bloomington campus teaching duties grew in the early years of this century, the travels stopped and extension courses evolved into correspondence courses. This activity eventually fell under the purview of an Extension Division, established in 1912 and based in Bloomington, and soon thereafter "in person" credit courses began to be offered in Indianapolis again. Then, in response to a request (and modest financial support) from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Indiana University established its first Extension Center in the capital city in 1916.

Courses dot downtown landscape

Utilizing free accommodations on the tenth floor of the Merchants Bank Building, then, at sixteen stories, the city's tallest building, the Extension Center began offering both credit and non-credit courses. Usually these classes were held in the late afternoon or evening, most often in classrooms at Shortridge High School, still at its downtown location, and in meeting rooms of the public library. Ray S. Trent (1916-1918) was the first head of the center, and he was succeeded by Robert E. Cavanaugh (1918-1921), a former superintendent of schools in Salem, Indiana.

Mary B. Orvis
Mary B. Orvis, "Officer in Charge" of the Indianapolis Center and assistant professor of journalism.
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When Cavanaugh moved up to replace John J. Pettijohn as Director of the entire Extension Division, he kept his office in Indianapolis. At that time, Mary B. Orvis (1921-1945) became the actual head of the Indianapolis Center in everything but the title, for she was referred to as the "officer in charge." Orvis had come to Indiana University in 1916 to work in the Extension Division as a secretary, moved on in the same capacity to Indianapolis in 1918, and began teaching there in 1920. She was named an assistant professor of journalism in 1921, when she also assumed her administrative post. Despite her lack of title recognition in both capacities, Orvis proved to be an effective teacher and "officer in charge." The author of The Art of Writing Fiction, Orvis counted among her students the highly successful novelist and playwright, Joseph Hayes, who is best known for The Desperate Hours, a thriller as both a novel and a play that was set in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Extension Center, officially termed the "Indianapolis Center" in the 1920s and unofficially simply as the Downtown Center or Downtown Campus, had many homes during its first dozen years. In 1920 the Center's offices moved from the bank building into a medical building used by the IU School of Medicine prior to its move to the westside in 1919. But Cavanaugh and the others found the building, located behind (to the west of) the State Capitol to be inadequate and unsatisfactory. There less than a full year, the Center next occupied space in a more centrally located building at 319 North Pennsylvania.

Indianapolis Downtown Campus - Courtesy University Library Special Collections and Archives #UA24-003545
The Indianapolis Downtown Campus — Lumberman's Insurance and Bobbs-Merrill Buildings.
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A permanent home

Finally, in 1928, the Downtown Center came by its first permanent home, one owned by the university, in a most unusual fashion. Construction of the magnificent Indiana World War Memorial Hall on space between Meridian and Pennsylvania streets in the latter 1920s forced the removal of as many as forty-five buildings. One of them, a sturdy five-story structure that housed the Bobbs-Merrill Company, a well-known publishing house, was vacated by the company shortly before the building was moved around the corner to a site at 122 East Michigan Street. Indiana University purchased it in 1928 for both its Indianapolis Center headquarters and a place to hold classes. Subsequently known as the E Building for it housed the education department for many years, its acquisition marked the beginning of the development of a quite substantial "campus" near the intersection of East Michigan and North Delaware streets.

The major addition came in 1948 when the university acquired a second, even larger building nearby. Known as the A (for administration) Building, the 8-story structure was the former home of the national headquarters of the Lumberman's Union. Located at 518 North Delaware, the A Building also housed the library on the 5th, 7th, and 8th floors--administrative offices occupied the 6th floor. The lower floors, in addition to providing classrooms, were also used for a bookstore, a food service (Hanna's), and various student activity offices, such as, eventually, a quirky campus newspaper named Onomatopoeia. Interestingly, the library included the collections of both the Downtown Campus and the Graduate School of Social Service, now the School of Social Work. But the two collections used different cataloging systems--Dewey Decimal for the Social Service books, Library of Congress for the others. Neither "side" would give in to the other, so this anomaly continued until after the move to a new library on the westside campus.

Eventually the campus expanded eastward along Michigan Street. In 1963 the university leased the C Building, probably so-called because the solid four-story building had formerly been the national headquarters of the Carpenter's Union. This building at 222 East Michigan Street is the sole survivor of the Downtown Campus's "Big Three" cluster near the intersection of Michigan and Delaware. It now serves as an adjunct to the Barton Nursing Home, a corner building that had always separated the C from the A and E buildings. Lastly, the Downtown Campus also included a building at 902 North Meridian Street.

Students at the Marott Building, 1950's - Courtsey University Library Special Collections and Archives #UA24-002388
Purdue students in the 1950's at the Marott Building, 902 N. Meridian
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This building, originally the home of the Hoosier Athletic Club, had been purchased for Purdue University by George Marott in 1943. Purdue had started its Indianapolis extension programs in 1940 from offices in Indiana University's E Building and then three other downtown locations before getting its own building. But it soon outgrew the limited, poorly suited accommodations at the Marott Building, which the academic programs had to share with agricultural extension services personnel (and chickens, sometimes). Fortunately, an additional, timely benefaction enabled Purdue to move its Indianapolis operations to new facilities on East 38th Street in 1961, when the Krannert Building was ready for use. Indiana University then occupied the Marott Building, referred to as the M Building, which it purchased in 1967.

Surviving the challenges

Despite the inadequacies of its scattered physical properties, not one of which had been designed for academic use, and chronic underfunding of its activities, the Downtown Campus survived its shaky start and the challenges of the depression and another world war. Enrollments rose steadily, from about 450 in 1920 and 1,100 in 1924 (including 63 graduate students in history, education, and English) to more than 3,000 in 1936 and just over 5,000 in 1968.

Dr. Charles Emerson making rounds with social work students at Long Hospital - Courtesy University Library Special Collections and Archives #UA24-003545
Dr. Charles Emerson making rounds with social work students at Long Hospital
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A sizable collection of bulletins from the Extension Center/Downtown Campus in the university archives reveals many interesting things about it during the early years. Distinguished professors from Bloomington and the Medical Center, rather than simply graduate students trying to make ends meet, often taught in Indianapolis, as did some prominent, well-placed individuals in the city, whose generic title was that of Extension Instructors. The former group included Dr. Charles P. Emerson, dean of the Medical School, folklorist Stith Thompson, poet Samuel Yellin, dramatist Lee Norvelle, and mathematician Kenneth P. Williams, who also made his mark as a Civil War historian and author of the influential Lincoln Finds a General. The latter group of local talented people included W. G. Gingery, head of the mathematics department at Shortridge High who offered a course in astronomy; Ray S. Trent, director of Industrial Research for the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce (as well as the first director of the Extension Center), and Herman B Wells, then with the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions, who in 1935 taught economics to undergraduates. Wells, later of course the legendary president and then chancellor of the university, was so little known to the IU family that his name was misspelled in the bulletin.

An interesting feature of virtually every semester during the 1930s was the presentation of what were billed as "Popular Lectures." That must have been an accurate label, for they were repeated regularly. The topics differed and came to have great relevancy to the changing world situation. This series began in the fall of 1930 with twelve lectures, every Thursday evening on the fifth floor of the Center's main building, on "Great Men in History." The "great men" included some from antiquity, moved on to Napoleon and finally to Woodrow Wilson. Future Pulitzer Prize-winning historian R. C. Buley, then just a lowly assistant professor, was the one who spoke on the Democratic president who led the nation through World War I but not into the League of Nations. In the next series on "Great Men of Letters," President William Lowe Bryan lectured on Mark Twain.

The fee for these lectures, carried as a credit course for those who wished to pick up an extra credit, was $5.00; for those who simply audited the lectures, the fee was $3.00. Subsequent "popular lecture" series topics included Public Welfare and Social Security (1936), China and Japan Today (1938), and Our Friends and Enemies in the Far East (1942). Other specially publicized courses were on interior decoration, music and art appreciation, and even one on "how to dress." Another series that might cause wonderment to us in this day of ubiquitous music and videos was the "Free Victrola Concerts" offered in the spring of 1936. Arranged by Mary B. Orvis, the series was intended to familiarize the students with good classical music, such as works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, and others.

Dr. Joseph Taylor - Courtesy University Library Special Collections and Archives #UA24-002807
Dr. Joseph Taylor, a former social worker at the Flanner House, was hired to teach sociology.
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Growth hits high gear after WWII

In 1945, just in time to meet the enormous onslaught of new students largely occasioned by the G. I. Bill of Rights, Roy E. Feik replaced Orvis as head of the Indianapolis Center. During Director Feik's ten-year tenure in office, the center's enrollment doubled again, both its part-time and full-time faculty also doubled, and its physical facilities tripled. Growth continued under Virgil Hunt, a former small college president and director of IU's Kokomo Campus who also, like Feik, served as director of the Indianapolis campus for ten years. One of his most significant steps during that time was hiring Dr. Joseph T. Taylor, then at the Flanner House, first to teach sociology at the campus, and then to join him in its administration.

The story of the development of the westside campus is too complex for adequate summary here, but gradually, over the course of more than ten years, the university acquired some 2,000 individual pieces of property--houses, stores, churches, industries and industrial sites, and more. Designated the University Quarter, land between West Street and the White River (east to west) and Washington Street to 10th Street or Fall Creek (south to north) was destined to become the home of a unique, new university, awkwardly but perhaps unavoidably named Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

Lockefield Gardens - Courtesy University Library Special Collections and Archives #UA24-002711
Lockefield Gardens, a public housing complex built between 1935 and 1938 and closed in 1978.
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Of course there were concerns and objections to this plan by many of the area residents. Essentially a black neighborhood near famed Indiana Avenue and its once lively center of restaurants, shops, and halls for outstanding jazz musicians, the area was also adjacent to the equally famed and revered Lockefield Gardens, one of the nation's first public housing projects of the New Deal era. But both "the Avenue" and Lockefield had fallen on hard times, the neighborhood was in decline, and by 1960 had become a priority within the city administration as a site for urban renewal. The university's approach in acquiring the designated land and properties was both fair and firm--independent appraisals fixed the prices, and no one was forced to sell or leave his or her property without relocation assistance both in finding acceptable housing elsewhere and in meeting the expenses of moving. But the pressure for action was inexorable and often, quite understandably, deeply resented.

Two programs become one campus

An unwieldy amalgamation of the regional campuses in Indianapolis operated separately by Indiana and Purdue University occurred in 1969. Originally planned, as in Fort Wayne, to be simply a physical merger--placing both operations on a single site near the Medical Center, the merger suddenly and still inexplicably became complete and comprehensive. This melding of two operations into an unprecedented, seemingly impossible single unit managed by one university--Indiana--but offering the programs and degrees of both has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of all involved.

At the time of the merger, an attempt at rationalizing the organization of the undergraduate faculty involved the creation--by 1973--of at least three new schools: the Downtown Campus of Indiana University, its departments augmented by former Purdue University faculty in the same fields, became the School of Liberal Arts, and Purdue University programs, with a few former IU faculty joining Purdue mission departments, evolved into the Schools of Science and Engineering and Technology. Earlier, certain programs administered by the Downtown Campus, such as in business, education, and nursing, had joined other schools or divisions, so the School of Liberal Arts consisted, for the most part, of programs in the traditional arts and humanities.

IUPUI construction, 1971 - Courtesy University Library Special Collections and Archives #UA24-002711
Construction of Robert E. Cavanaugh Hall, Lecture Hall, and University Library, 1971
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The first dean of the new School of Liberal Arts was Dr. Taylor, a revered and honored community leader, especially among the African American community. He headed the Downtown Campus, and then the SLA, for twelve, highly significant years, 1966-1978. Thus he played a large role in working out the details of the merger as IU-I and PU-I became IUPUI. Ably assisted by Dr. James R. East, Taylor also coordinated planning for the school's new home on the westside in a building appropriately named for Dr. Cavanaugh, the long-time director from Indianapolis of IU's Extension Division. Besides, the school had already had a C (for classrooms) building. Adjacent to Cavanaugh Hall were a much needed new library and a modern, state-of-the-art lecture hall, known generically as the Library and the Lecture Hall, not by just letters. Two of these buildings were ready for use beginning in January 1971; the third, the Lecture Hall was ready by that summer.

Chancellor Dr. Maynard K. Hine - Courtesy University Library Special Collections and Archives #UA24-002425
Dr. Maynard K. Hine, first Chancellor of IUPUI, 1970
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Not only were the faculty and curricular mergers completed, as planned, slightly before the mandated date of July 1, 1971, but also administrative and staff personnel and student organizations at both institutions became part of single units. IUPUI, the shortened designation of the new institution, had one registrar, one bursar, one student newspaper, and eventually one undergraduate library. The overall head of the new university, a chancellor, was Dr. Maynard K. Hine. The former dean of the School of Dentistry, Hine appointed as his first vice chancellor the former head of Purdue's Indianapolis campus, Dr. Jack Ryder. Soon thereafter, Dr. Hine appointed a second vice chancellor, Dr. John (Jack) C. Buhner, who came to Indianapolis from his post as director of the IU campus in Gary. This, as Dr. Hine never tired of saying, gave him "two Jacks for openers" in his negotiations with others.