* Site 6: Bobbs Merrill Company Building
(formerly 122 E. Michigan St.)
"Bobbs-Merrill Building Exterior, n.d.," UA24-003543,
IUPUI Special Collections and Archives
In the early history of the Indiana University extension program in Indianapolis, women played an important role as both administrators and professors. Before the university’s campus moved to its present location, it occupied a number of different buildings downtown. Perhaps the most notable of these was the Bobbs Merrill Company Building, formerly at 122 E. Michigan St. While not linked to the physical space that IUPUI currently inhabits, the contributions of women in these early days of extension work nonetheless deserve mention.
Women and the Early Development of Indiana University, Indianapolis
Although she never set foot on IUPUI's current campus, Mary Orvis's affiliation with the university is as old as Indiana University Extension Division's presence in Indianapolis. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Orvis once recalled, "I literally grew up under the caves of the university and spent most of my time in the library. Undoubtedly it had an influence on my life." She received her degree from the University of Wisconsin. 1
Mary Orvis, taken from IUPUI Spirit website,
Orvis's academic career began in a transition period of women's roles in higher education. By the turn of the century, an increased number of women in academic positions had emerged after decades of slow growth in the number of institutions that admitted women students. By 1900, 71 percent of the colleges in the United States had become coeducational. Between 1900 and 1920, women continued to find a multitude of faculty positions open to them, but beginning in the 1920s and extending into the 1960s, a marked decline in opportunities for academic women resulted first from a slowed enthusiasm for academic positions, and then from the economic depression that struck in 1929. Later, an increased availability of men to fill academic positions after WWII displaced additional women from academia. Whereas by 1920, the number of academic positions held by women had jumped to 26.3 percent, by 1930 this number had only risen to 27.1 percent, and by 1962, had declined to 22 percent. 2
A free-lance writer and editor for Outlook magazine, Orvis came to Indiana University Bloomington as a secretary to the director of summer school in 1916. By 1918, she had moved to the extension's offices in Indianapolis. She served as a secretary there from 1918 until 1924, and then became executive secretary. Orvis recalled her own beginnings at Indiana University differently. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, she noted that John J. Pettijohn, the first director of Indiana University’s Extension Division, offered her a temporary position as director of publicity for the 1916 summer school session. This fact could not be verified in the Indiana University archives. 3
In her role as secretary, Orvis worked with Ray Trent to open Indiana University's Extension Center in Indianapolis. She even helped plan the center's courses. Besides taking on secretarial duties, in 1920 Orvis also began teaching a course in short story writing at the extension. Her first enrollment was twenty-five students. In 1921, Orvis became an assistant professor of journalism. That same year, Robert E. Cavanaugh took over as director of Indiana University's Extension Division, and she took on the role, but not the title, of the Indianapolis Extension's head. Nicknamed the "officer in charge," Orvis held this ran the extension center for many years. 4
In 1949, Orvis was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor of journalism. A well-liked educator, Orvis taught many students including Joseph Haynes, author of The Desperate Hours. In 1948, she authored a textbook explaining the creative process and method of writing, titled The Art of Writing Fiction. With interests extending well beyond writing, Orvis also worked to develop non-credit lectures on world problems and international affairs. Later, in 1936, she started "Free Victrola Concerts" featuring classical music for students. 5
Orvis became so well-known at the Indiana University Indianapolis campus that a journalist for the Indianapolis Star once remarked, "Almost everyone in town, at some time or another, has wandered out to the IU extension center to catch up on a foreign language or the latest in economics or history, or to get professional help with the short story he has been trying to put down on paper. And no one climbs the worn steps of the erstwhile publishing house without encountering Miss Mary B. Orvis." 6
Orvis retired in 1954, and died in 1964. In recognition of her efforts to establish Indiana University in Indianapolis, IUPUI named the "Orvis House" student apartments on the River Walk in her honor.
"Gertrude Heberlein, 1985,"
Taken by IUPUI Publications, UA24-006690,
IUPUI Special Collections and Archives
Mary Orvis's departure in 1954 did not leave the extension campus without a strong woman to oversee its daily activity. Like Orvis, Gertrude Heberlein's roles at the Indianapolis campus expanded greatly from the time she first arrived at Indiana University. Heberlein originally came to the extension campus as a temporary part-time stenographer circa 1924. In 1926, she obtained a full-time position as office assistant to Mary Orvis. Over the years, Heberlein helped wherever she was needed. She ran the campus bookstore and library, taught English composition, and assisted with various administrative tasks. 7
In 1942, Heberlein became assistant director of the Indianapolis extension office. When Orvis retired, Heberlein became acting director of the extension office for one year before Roy Feik took the position. She stepped in again later as acting director between the time of Feik’s retirement and the appointment of Virgil Hunt. During her twenty years as assistant director, Heberlein worked in a variety of capacities. Most notably, she served on numerous campus development committees. Her efforts were so welcome that Virgil Hunt once commented, “I know that Roy Feik would echo my feeling that Gertrude Heberlein was a most valuable colleague in maintaining continuity in the development of the Downtown Campus.” 8
In 1963, after obtaining her masters degree from IU Bloomington, Heberlein resigned her position as assistant director and became an assistant professor of English at IU Indianapolis. She taught Shakespeare and British Literature before 1800. When Indiana University and Purdue University’s Indianapolis campuses merged in 1969, Heberlein became associate professor of English. Besides teaching courses, she acted as co-sponsor of the English Club and advisor to undergraduate English majors. Heberlein also remained active in campus development. She continued to serve on university committees and helped to plan dedication services for IUPUI’s new undergraduate campus in 1971. 9 Heberlein retired that same year and died in 1995.
1 "They Achieve," Indianapolis Star, 29 September 1943, p4, c10.
2 Jessie Shirley Bernard, Academic Women (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1964), 32-7, 40; Susan Levine, Degrees of Equality: the American Association of University Women and the Challenge of Twentieth-Century Feminism (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1995), 10-11, 25.
3 "They Achieve;" Faculty Biographical Sheet, Mary Orvis, Office of the University Archives and Records Management, Indiana University – Bloomington.
4 Faculty Biographical Sheet, Mary Orvis; "I.U. Extension to Give New Courses for Young Writers," Indianapolis News, 20 January 1941, p2, p7, c1.
5 "They Achieve;" "Price of Success in Writing Comes High, Asserts Veteran in Education," Indianapolis Times, 27 December 1947, p8, c3; "The Art of Writing Fiction", Indianapolis Star, 4 April 1948, s4 p34 c5.
6 "They Achieve," Indianapolis Star 19 September 1943, p4 c10 c4.
7 “Gertrude Kaiser Heberlein was a Retired Professor,” Indianapolis Star, 1 February 1995; “Director of the I.U. Extension ‘Extends’ Temporary Job Years,” Indianapolis News, 16 November 1955, p40 c5; “Gertrude Heberlein,” and “Mrs. Heberlein Cited at IU-PUI,” Heberlein, Gertrude Faculty File, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives.