Research files: Tommy as a cartoon character

This plaque is the first record we have showing Tommy Titan as a cartoon

This plaque is the first record we have showing Tommy Titan as a cartoon

In this post, we have two views of the same object: a plaque in the archives that contains the first image of Tommy Titan as something other than a person in costume. This artifact contains the earliest record we have of the transition from Tommy as a person dressed in titan-esque attire (see details in previous post) and the costume-wearing student who serves as our mascot today!

Close up of 1st time Tommy shown as a cartoon

Close up of 1st time Tommy shown as a cartoon


Research files: From GAW to Tommy

Any time a student or any member of the community attends an IWU sporting event a constant image and cheerful presence is the IWU mascot of Tommy Titan. Tommy Titan is undoubtedly one of the important symbols of Illinois Wesleyan University, but when did Tommy become the official IWU mascot?

The IWU Titan name was first mentioned in October 27,1927 issue of the Argus.The IWU football team previously had no specific name and they were the first to acquire the nickname Titans. Soon all IWU sports teams chose to use the name of the Titans, but the first name of Tommy did not appear until much later and we can thank a man named Lee Short!

Tommy being pulled onto the field in a chariot.

Click on the image to go to the Argus issue containing Tommy’s debut!

Class of 1944 alumnus Lee Short earned the credit of creating the gladiator-like image of our beloved mascot and giving him the first name of Tommy in 1951.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Tommy’s appearance evolved even more, but you can read the story about Tommy’s origins in the November 2, 2007 Argus. The first image we have of Tommy is at this football game against ISU on September 25, 1965. The student portraying him is Steve Reeser, Class of 1969.

Long before Tommy Titan, the IWU colors of green and white were documented as our school colors in 1898 report of the Daily Pantagraph. It is interesting to think that before adopting the name of the Titans the sports teams of the past (pre-1927) simply referred to themselves as the GAW (for Green and White) and continued to do so for some time until the Titan name decidedly became the commonplace term.

Be sure to look at the Argus issues linked in this post and all the other resources for IWU history! And check out our campus traditions page for pep songs and more. Lee Short has a long and interesting association with IWU, and he contributed an oral history recording in 2010 that is also available online.

A note about Records — NOT the Olympic or turntable kind!

Some people find it odd to learn that archivists spend a lot of time thinking about what to throw away. It’s true, though, not everything needs to be saved forever. In fact, if we aren’t consciously making decisions it can actually cost more–in terms of staff time and resources to preserve objects–to take care of things we don’t truly need compared to the cost of caring for what we truly value.

The graphic below is part of a page I created to help IWU offices identify what types of records they create and to determine how long they should keep them. The page also contains terminology to help people think through record keeping decisions.

records flowchartThis does not have to be a solo effort! Questions are welcome and you can contact me to talk these decisions through.

Research files: Famous Commencement quote

President Myers at the 1993 Commencement

President Minor Myers, jr., 1993 Commencement

“Go forth and do well, but even more go forth and do good.” — noted in the 1993 Commencement files (RG 6-1/2)

People often remember the parting advice former President Minor Myers, jr. made at Commencement each year, and we were recently asked to find out when he first said it and if it had any other origin.

President Myers didn’t read from complete scripts during speeches; the above quote was in the brief, typed outline of his remarks for Commencement 1993.

But how did he come to develop this phrase? We followed the trail back to his first campus speech and found two instances that illuminate a possibility.

An earlier notation we found comes close to the eventual phrase: “We shall both prosper only as we serve well.” This note was penciled in on an “Outline for Talk at Writers [sic] Conference” dated March 28, 1990 (RG 2-12/3/1: Speech Outlines, July 1989-March 2002, folder 3 of 3).

The typed notes directly above this line show an origin: “Anglican / read of Wesley, went to his house, found his bust / example of unremitting effort to do good. / and unending joy in doing it. / that is the satisfaction of what we are doing, // the frustrations, / but the reward is the sense we are contributing to the maintenance of that which is good by unending efforts to make it better.”

And going further back, a note on Myers’ 1989 Inaugural Address also refers to John Wesley’s “devotion to doing good,” so perhaps we can say that the founder of Methodism itself is the inspiration for the quote that Myers crafted over the next four years and made his own!

Research files: Shortest serving president

Someone recently asked, “Who was IWU’s shortest-serving president?”
With a length of service at just 14 months, the record goes to Clinton W. Sears: August 1855-October 1856 (see p. 54-55 of Elmo Watson’s IWU Story; available at

Photographs of all of our presidents are available at

Others who served short terms include
Wiley G. Brooks (22 mos.) took office in December 1937 and left in September 1939 (Watson p. 168-169).

Samuel J. Fallows (23 mos.) served from August 1873 until the 1875 Commencement which was in mid- to late-June in those days (Watson p. 113).

Wayne Anderson (24 mos.) August 1, 1986 – July 31, 1988
The official inauguration didn’t take place until April 25, 1987, but archival records confirm that Anderson was appointed in April 1986 and his first day in office was August 1, 1986. A letter from the Board of Trustees (filed with Anderson’s appointment documents in RG 2-11/1) verifies receipt of his resignation letter and says it was effective July 31, 1988. The same letter confirms Dr. Wendell Hess would serve as interim president. Dr. Hess discusses this period and others in his long association with IWU in his oral history interview (see An April 15, 1988 Argus news story on this topic is available at,6439.

Note: We’ve combed our research files for interesting requests and with this post will start publishing “staff picks” and the ones that seem likely to be asked again. Stay tuned!

What does the archives keep?

Someone recently asked me to create a source that would make it easy for people to know what the archives considers…well…archival! The image linked below leads to a slide show designed to help clarify how YOU can help me save your history for future generations.


This slide lists some of our major collecting points, but if you have questions feel free to ask!

Let me know if you have questions about anything in this overview!

Timely digital preservation tips


savethebits-202x300I subscribe to the Library of Congress’s blog named The Signal and saw a timely post I wanted to share…read on and remember that our ability to save your digital heritage begins with you!

Ten Tips for Preserving Your Holiday Digital Memories

November 27, 2013 by

  1. As soon as you can, transfer the digital files off the camera, cell phone or other device and onto backup storage. That storage could be your computer, a thumb drive, a CD, a hard drive or an online cloud service. You should also backup a second copy somewhere else, preferably on a different type of storage device than the first.
  2. If you have time, browse your files and decide if you want to keep everything or just cull the best ones. Twenty photos of the same scene might be unnecessary, no matter how beautiful the scene might be. And despite who is in that video, if the video is blurry and dark and shaky, you probably will never watch it again.
  3. When you back your files up, organize them so you can easily find them.
  4. Organize file folders however you want but be consistent with your system. Label folders by date, description or file type (such as “Photos” or “Thanksgiving 2013″). Organization makes it easy to find your stuff later.
  5. You can rename files without affecting the contents. And renaming a file will help you find it quickly when you search for it later.
  6. You can add descriptions to your digital photos, much as you would write a description to a paper photo. We’ve gone into depth in few blog posts, to describe how it works.
  7. Similarly, if you make any digital audio recordings, you can add descriptive information into the audio files themselves, information that will display in the MP3 player.
  8. If you have a special correspondence with someone, you can archive the emails and cell phone texts much as you would a paper letter or card.
  9. Remember that all storage devices eventually become obsolete; maybe you can recall devices and disks from just a decade ago that are now either obsolete or on their way out of fashion. If you have valuable files still on those obsolete media, those files become increasingly difficult to access with every passing year. So in order to keep your files accessible, you should move your collection to a new storage medium about every five to seven years. That is about the average time for something new and different to come out. At the least, if you use the same backup device frequently — like a favorite thumb drive — get a new one.  Migrate your collection to new media periodically.
  10. Write down where you have important files, along with any passwords needed to access them, and keep that information in a secure place that a designated person can access if you are not around.

Treat your digital files responsibly, preserve those memorable moments and you can enjoy them again and again for years.

For more information on personal digital archiving, visit

Departmental History: Political Science

The short answer is during the 1950-1951 school year and Assistant Professor Robert O. Gibbon.
The question is  “When did the department begin and who was the first chair?”

This blog will be used to record our research on departmental histories as they are received. A backlog currently exists in this type of research and I will catch it up in a post as soon as possible. For now, here are some added details in the development of PoliSci at IWU:
The 1921 school year shows the earliest mention of a political science branch within a division of the Department of Economics and Sociology. It was headed by Professor Carl W. Strow.

The 1922-23 school year lists political science as part of the Department of History and Political Science, marking the first time it was in the title of a department. This department was headed by Professor William Wallis and this structure/alignment and chair remained the same until 1950. At that point Wallis remained History’s Chair and Gibbon (who had been on the faculty in the combined department since 1947) became chair of the new, separate department.

Other chairs:
1955-1958 Robert O. Byrd
1958-1963 A. Glenn Mower, Jr.
1963-1967 Bunyan H. Andrew (dept shows combined with History again during this time)
1967-1972 Donald P. Brown (who had been teaching in Hist/PoliSci during the recombined period)
1972 John Wenum begins

New collection of old letters

Bird Correspondence CollectionDuring the summer of 2013 an Archives Student Assistant processed a donation of letters. Over 900 handwritten letters between IWU alumna Florence Ralph (’30) and Marion T. Bird are contained in this collection. The letters cover a wide range of topics from faith to politics, school activities, local events, family and more — all the details young people might share during a long courtship in a tumultuous time in American history.

The donation of the handwritten documents came from the descendents of Florence and Marion and also included scanned pdfs of all the letters that family member P. L. Embley created. Researchers are welcome to use the letters in the archives or in the online collection we created with the scanned images. Mrs. Embley also selected and scanned photographs from the family albums held by the children and grandchildren of Florence and Marion Bird.

We appreciate the efforts the family has gone through to make these documents available to researchers everywhere. The letters in this collection have not been transcribed at this time. Readers are welcome to contribute transcriptions they create or additional subject headings they identify to