It was a simple item on the bucket list for 79-year-old Julia Woodworth Gillespie: Visit an old Ball family home in Muncie and tour Ball State University.
Seven decades after her last visit, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that her family name (Woodworth) had not been forgotten. Seeing it carved in stone above the entrance to Woodworth Complex residence hall left her grinning from ear to ear on a crisp Monday morning.
“I had no idea that this existed,” she said as she walked with her daughter, Sara Cina of Rochester, Minnesota. “I knew the university honored members of the Ball family over the years. This is so nice, but I am flabbergasted.
“I named my son after my grandfather,” she said. “My son was excited to learn that the residence hall continues the family name.”
Gillespie is the granddaughter of Claudius Curtiss Woodworth (1875-1953), whose sister Frances Woodworth Ball was married to George A. Ball, one of the five Ball brothers. They created Ball Corp., an international business firm, and in 1918, founded the institution that would become Ball State.
A native New Yorker, Claudius Curtiss Woodworth settled in Lodi, California, and died at the Woodworth Ranch, the family home. Ball State opened the residence hall to honor Frances Ball in 1956.
But, it was in 1946 that a 9-year-old came to visit her great-uncle and great-aunt, George A. and Frances Ball, at Oakhurst, a Ball family home that sits on the banks of the White River. Built in 1895, the house was designed by architect Louis Gibson, who wanted the residence to fit naturally in the surrounding oak grove.
Several of the Ball family residences, which date back a century or more, still exist, overlooking the White River.
“I clearly remember visiting my aunt and uncle,” said Gillespie, who hails from Lodi. “Uncle George took me to the old glass factory, and I remember how loud it was — deafening. It was very dark and filled with smoke, and the workers were pouring molten golden liquid to make the Ball jars. I had never seen anything like it but never forgot it.
“One day recently, I just said to my daughter that I wanted to go there and see it. You remember things you saw and did as a child and want to go back to see it one more time. I am so glad she arranged it.”
Gillespie was given a guided tour of Woodworth by Matt Kovach, assistant director of housing and residence life, and Joi Brihm, an assistant residence hall director.
The group visited the residence hall’s many features, including its movie room, fitness room, kitchen and laundry rooms. Brihm also presented Gillespie with a Women of Woodworth (WOW) T-shirt.
“It’s fun giving tours to alumni and others who have a connection to Ball State and the Muncie community,” Kovach said. “It’s great to hear stories about their memories of Ball State and Muncie and to hear how they fit into the historical picture. I also enjoy sharing with them where the university is today.”
Gillespie and her daughter also visited the room of Haylee Moscato, a residence hall assistant and Ball State student.
After showing off her pet fish and an item made at the Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass — where students can learn the art of glass blowing, another tie to the Ball family’s family business that produced glass canning jars — Moscato and other students who joined the group for lunch said they were mesmerized by Gillespie’s stories.
In the end, it was Gillespie who was mesmerized.
“This was some visit,” she admitted while looking up at the family name outside the residence hall. “My daughter and I originally were just going to come to campus unannounced and just sneak around the campus. We never thought about getting such a great tour.”