From the early days as a teacher-training school to its status as a comprehensive university, three Ball State colleagues have captured the institution’s history in a new book.
“Ball State University,” a part of the Campus History Series by Arcadia Publishing, tells the University’s rich history through dozens of photos organized in six distinct eras, with detailed captions and introductory chapters. The book, which is part of Ball State’s Centennial Celebration, is the work of E. Bruce Geelhoed, history professor; Michael G. Szajewski, assistant dean for digital scholarship and special collections; and Brandon T. Pieczko, who served as digital archivist for manuscript collections.
The book also includes background and photos about the four failed schools that came before the Ball family bought the property and helped establish a state-assisted public normal school in 1918.
Before Ball State
“Looking back from the perspective of a century, it is easy to dismiss the failures of the four private normal schools from 1899 to 1917 as inconsequential to Ball State’s larger story,” the authors write in their introduction. ”But enduring examples of the importance of these failures do exist.” For example, the University’s oldest structure, now the Frank A. Bracken Administration Building, was constructed in 1899 and continues to be a campus focal point.
On September 6, commemoration of Ball State University’s Centennial officially begins with a public kickoff event in Emens Auditorium. Events reflecting the Centennial theme, Beneficence: Proud Past and Bright Future, will continue through the 2018-19 academic year. Learn more about the dates and locations of these road shows, and all things Centennial.”
“Our plan was to tell Ball State University’s history in a compelling, inclusive, and human-centered way that our many and diverse alumni could connect with,” Szajewski said. “Our work was greatly enriched by the many beautiful and engaging images taken by Ball State photographers over the years and by the excellent work done at Ball State University Libraries to preserve and digitize these historic photographs.
“We’ve produced a book that will capture the interest of many — ranging from dedicated alumni to incoming students, from faculty and staff to members of the local community. The prominence of visually-oriented social media in the last 10 years — as can be seen in the popularity of #tbt and other similar hashtags and trends — has increased broad public interest in historic photographs and archival materials in general.”
The book, which includes a foreword by Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns, documents momentous moments such as the 1937 dedication of the “Beneficence” statue; visits to campus by U.S. Presidents, world-famous artists, and noted civil rights leaders; and historic athletic achievements. Other photos depict the daily lives of students over the decades.
A new dimension
Geelhoed, who co-authored 2001’s “Ball State University: Interpretive History,” believes the new book adds a new dimension to the Ball State story.
“On the principle that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ this book shows the visual growth and development over time in terms of the physical campus and especially the students and faculty,” he said. “The 2001 book was intended to be the authoritative history of Ball State. This book is more of a photographic overview of Ball State’s history, geared toward the Centennial observations.”
While working on the book, Szajewski was amazed by the tremendous growth and transformation of the institution.
“We began as a fledgling branch of a small teachers college and have become a major research institution,” he said. “All the while, the student experience has remained central to the institution’s mission. Sustained philanthropic support by the Ball family and many others will be recognized as critical to this growth.”
“Ball State University” is available at the Ball State Bookstore or can be ordered through Amazon.com.