Alumni stories: Edelbert Rodgers, Class of 32

This entry marks the start of a new series in this blog: stories of IWU Alumni that emerge during research with the collections in the University Archives.

Rodgers' Senior Class photo from the 1934 Wesleyana

Rodgers’ Senior Class photo from the 1934 Wesleyana

The Argus editor in 1932 posted a summary of sociology research completed by Senior Edlebert Rodgers.
January 13, 1932 Argus headline: WESLEYAN SENIOR MAKES

“In  a  survey  of the  Social and  Economic progress of Negroes in  Bloomington  and Normal Edelbert  Rogers has found that the negro population of these two  cities  is  804.  This number makes up 2.8  percent of  the  entire  population of these  two  cities.  The  negroes  of Champaign make up 7.8  percent  of the population  while  4.7  percent  of  the people in  Springfield are negroes….”

There are only a few mentions* of Rodgers in The Argus at different points in his campus career, but the story above is the only substantive information from his IWU days that we know of at this time. All the stories linked below only share his debate team activities. Other information is available during his only known return to campus.

Edelbert Rodgers at Founders' Day Convocation 2001. Provost Janet McNew is pictured on the left.

Edelbert Rodgers at Founders’ Day Convocation 2001. Provost Janet McNew is pictured on the left.

The quote that follows is from a Press Release for Founders’ Day 2001 (similar wording appears in an Argus Article about the event). At that event Dr. Rodgers was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

“Edelbert Rodgers, class of 1933, IWU’s oldest living minority alumnus, retired professor, Flint Junior College (now Mott Community College) in Michigan. Rodgers also was a practicing psychologist. He will meet with a group of students at 4 p.m. on Feb. 20 in the Cartwright Room, IWU Memorial Student Center, 104 E. University St. Rodgers also will meet with psychology faculty and students in C009B of the Center for Natural Sciences, 201 E. Beecher, at 9 a.m. on Feb. 21.”

The stories related during Rodgers’ visit had an impact on then-Dean of Students Jim Matthews. In a Fall 2007 IWU Magazine story, Matthews recounts the visit and his decision to use Rodgers’ picture as one of the focal points for visitors in the newly-remodeled Hansen Student Center.

Next time you’re in Hansen, stop by the front desk and take a moment to consider the life of Edlebert Rodgers.

*Other Argus stories Rodgers is mentioned in. Note: Spelling in these stories is for Rogers without a “d.”

Debate team activity described on page 1 of the issue at 1931-12-15.

“James Hidden and Edelbert Rogers argued the question [not specified] with a team of men from the same school” (see p2 at 1932-02-24).

The story on p8 of 1932-04-27 is for another debate. Rogers was timer for one “section” of the competition.

And on p3 of 1932-05-04, Rogers is listed with Titan Varsity Debate team: “During the season Edelbert Rogers, and James Hidden also saw action. The debaters wish to thank the fraternities and sororities of Wesleyan for their splendid cooperation in entertaining visiting teams during the season. Teams from eight different schools were taken care of overnight at the various houses. With the majority of the debate squad returning to school next year the outlook for another successful season is very bright.”

Advice from the past

Recent readings in old  IWU student publications are yielding time-tested advice. It is difficult when you’re caught up in the hurried days of deadlines and commitments to think of the broader implications of college on an educated person’s development. Take a look at some of these ideas and see if there’s an intersection with your 21st century life.

An October 1888 editorial offers this series of thoughts: “In study, college students slight nothing more than they do themselves….The student who has done nothing but study has little notion of what he is capable of doing. His school work so absorbs his attention that he fails to study himself….To accomplish the most possible, one must have a practical and general knowledge of things. A broad foundation is essential….Finally, and briefly, don’t hurry through school. It is better to be an educated graduate at tweny-five, than an inexperienced one at twenty. Young people at twenty are apt to make unfortunate ventures….”

Here is another excerpt from some advice given by another Editorial Board in 1890: “The aim of all college students should be to gain knowledge…We are here as a body of students to cultivate our minds, so that we may be able to cope with the outside world….”




Cover page of this Athenian issue.

Cover page of this Athenian issue.


Rare treats

October 22-24, 2014 marked a unique series of events for IWU students, staff, faculty and the wider community. With funding from the Mellon Foundation-sponsored series titled Re-centering the Humanities*, The Ames Library hosted a visit by University of Iowa professor Florence Boos and noted book collector Jack Walsdorf. The topic that brought them here was their shared interest in and knowledge of 19th-century English designer, writer, philosopher and founder of the Kelmscott Press. Walsdorf and Boos are current and past-presidents of The William Morris Society in the United States. Links to a press release and follow up story are included at the end of this post.

Overall,110 students in seven classes, 66 guests in three public campus events and 25 participants in an event held at the McLean County Museum of History were beneficiaries of the expertise our guests shared across our community.

In the classrooms, our students heard about Morris’s influences in design elements for architecture, clothing, home furnishings and more. Our guests addressed these topics in a frame that conveyed the stark conditions of life for people in Victorian Era England, with all the excesses and blight brought on by the Industrial Age, and drew a line to contemporary issues. Environmentalism, labor issues, equity of speech and free expression of ideas are concerns in society today and were issues that Morris and his peers engaged with in their society.

Mr. Walsdorf loaned us more than 60 items from his personal collection on Morris. Some were used by students during the classroom visits and many more were displayed in the library, in varying combinations, from October 17-November 14. One class also made a follow up visit to Tate Archives & Special Collections where they were able to view selected Morris works up-close and to handle Kelmscott proof sheets loaned by Walsdorf.

The library exhibit carried the title “Boundless Spirit: The Words, Works and Legacy of William Morris.” This image gallery contains selections from the class visits, campus and community events.

* Other campus events in this series can be viewed at On campus viewers will also be able to access the original grant proposal on this page.

On October 13, University Communications’ distributed a press release that is available at
[Note: The permanent IWU News archives is located Stories are harvested and collected there annually to prevent loss of information due to website changes.]

Anna Lowenthal’s Argus story about these events was published on October 31, 2014 and is available at,38360

Connecting the new to the old: time travel through “Re-Photography “

This recent addition to the archives offers an opportunity to introduce the campus to a trend in the archives world called re-photography.

1960_Holmes_hall_plantRe-photography involves re-enacting a scene from an earlier period in time by recreating it in a modern context. This is done in at least two ways: by deliberate restaging or reenactment without any variation such as is illustrated here, or by using an old photo for inspiration to create something with a modern twist.


2014_Holmes_hall_remakeWe are illustrating the first case with the 1960 photo (above). It was donated to the archives recently and arrived with an article about planting the nascent rubber tree in Holmes Hall (see this Fall 2007 IWU Magazine story for more on the plant). Last summer Archives Student Assistant Melissa Mariotti (right) posed for a re-shoot in the same spot so it is possible to see how different the same location looks today. (Photo credit: Megan Dickey)

The second way we’ve seen this done is by offering a new interpretation of an old scene that isn’t dependent on the specific location. Anyone can try this out by looking up old photos such as the ones added below. Over 1400 historical IWU photos, scanned from among the many thousands held in the University Archives, are available at

Make your mark on IWU history…re-make an old scene in your own way today!



Hot off the presses!

Read on for an announcement about a digital preservation project that The Ames Library participated in on IWU’s behalf!
POWRR project logo
The Digital POWRR Project (Preserving digital Objects With Restricted Resources), is a multi-institutional, IMLS National Leadership Grant project that has been working in the field of digital preservation (DP) since 2012. Its focus has been on investigating scalable DP solutions for small and mid-sized institutions that are often faced with small staff sizes, restricted IT infrastructures, and tight budgets. These institutions hold unique digital content important to their region’s cultural heritage, yet many of the practitioners are unsure how to approach the stewardship of the content and are overwhelmed by the large number of DP tools/services available. As the project progressed, the team uncovered the particular challenges, advantages, needs, and desires of under-resourced institutions. They worked to address and overcome obstacles that often prevent practitioners from taking even initial steps in preserving their digital content. POWRR sought to create a well-marked, realistic path towards sustainable digital stewardship for this often overlooked group. For example,
- The team delivered a well-received, graphic-based tool grid that shows, at-a-glance, the functionalities of over 60 DP tools and services and how they fit within an OAIS-based digital curation lifecycle.
- POWRR successfully petitioned select DP-solution vendors for scaled-down and transparent pricing geared towards smaller institutions.
- The team created materials to aid practitioners as they attempt to build awareness around the need for a DP program and advocate for the necessary resources.
- They developed a pragmatic, hands-on workshop to teach the initial steps necessary to accession and inventory digital content as well as how to realistically approach developing a DP program. Recognizing that many of their target institutions currently have little-to-no travel and training budgets, the POWRR team is traveling across the country to conduct these workshops for very little cost to the practitioners.
- Because institutions can achieve economies of scale by working together (not to mention the value of the “we’re all in this together” approach!), POWRR is producing collaboration models and the underlying legal framework often needed for these endeavors…all directed at small and mid-sized institutions.
These are just a selection of the efforts put forth by the POWRR team to guide and empower their peers on the path to digital stewardship. Stay tuned to the POWRR website for further activities and developments!

Research files: The Meditation Room

Illinois Wesleyan University’s Meditation Room

Guest posted by Melissa Mariotti


Photo taken by Melissa Mariotti, 2014

Not much is known about Illinois Wesleyan’s Meditation Room; in fact many people are unaware of its existence. The purpose of this room is all in the name; a place for quiet reflection and meditation. It is located on the second floor of the Memorial Center, up the stairs from the Davidson room.
photo2 (1)

Photo taken by Melissa Mariotti

It is a small space filled with six chairs, an altar, several crosses (both big and small), a prayer kneeler, paper and note cards for writing notes and prayers, several Bibles, rosaries, and a large plaque dedicated to the Wesleyan students who died in combat during World War II. It is interesting to note that the Meditation Room was not part of the original plans for the Memorial Center. While the building was constructed in 1947, the Meditation Room was not added until about 10 years later during the 1957-1958 school year after students began requesting a space for quiet meditation. It is well-known that Illinois Wesleyan began as a Methodist institution, so it is somewhat surprising to see that students requested a non-denominational meditation room. It may have begun as nondenominational, but it is clear that after time that its purpose has shifted from a small war memorial to a small church. Many people have found a sanctuary in this room. On the door there is a sign-in sheet where you can see how often the room gets used. People, both students and alumni, have written notes on it, saying how thankful they were for the space.

It is unclear as to when most of the items in the room were added or by whom.  The earliest evidence Wesleyan has is a photo taken during the 1960s of the altar and a cross. According to a 1954 Argus article, the room was “furnished by the Lee McClure family.” At that time, there was only the altar, a cross, and the chairs. As for the rest of the items, such as the large crosses, it is uncertain. There are six chairs placed against both sides of the room that were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Lee McClure in honor of their son, Bruce McClure, a student at Wesleyan, who died in combat in 1945.

"The Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lee McClure, in Memory of their Son, Bruce, 1924-1945."

“The Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lee McClure, in Memory of their Son, Bruce, 1924-1945.” Photo Taken by Melissa Mariotti

Each chair has a small plaque on them to commemorate him. Bruce came to Wesleyan in 1942 and was enlisted that following spring. He was a member of Phi Gamma Delta.

It is uncertain whether or not every item in the room was donated by the McClure family

There is a large plaque that is placed on the wall with the names of the students who fought and died in combat. The plaque is titled, “Illinois Wesleyan University Students Who Made the Supreme Sacrifice in World War Two.”

Plaque commemorating the students from IWU who gave their lives during WWII

Plaque commemorating the students from IWU who gave their lives during WWII. Photo found in RG 18-1/17

Among those names is George Lansing Fox, whom the room is now dedicated to. There is small collage dedicated to him and “The Four Chaplains.” George L. Fox graduated from Illinois Wesleyan in 1932 and served in World War I, receiving many prestigious awards, such as the Silver Star, Purple Heart, the Croix de Guerre, and the Furaguerre. He enlisted in World War II as a chaplain as was put on a ship called the USS Dorchester.

Plaque commemorating George L. Fox

Plaque commemorating George L. Fox Photo taken by Melissa Mariotti, 2014


In 1943 the USS Dorchester was torpedoed by a German submarine. Fox was one of three chaplains on the ship, one Catholic, one protestant, and one Jewish rabbi. After finding that there were not enough life vests on the ship, the four chaplains gave up their own so others could survive. They were last seen kneeling on the deck of the ship in prayer as it sank.In 1951 president Truman dedicated a chapel at Temple University, Pennsylvania, The Chapel of the Four Chaplains, and made a commemorative postage stamp in their honor.


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 an 1898 report by 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.