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Dared to Do It
Rebels with Causes

by C. L. Stambush

Dared to Do It!

Until the mid 1960s, there was a statewide agreement among university presidents and many politicians in Indiana that no city would have a public, higher education institution where a private college existed. That was the situation in Evansville. But the people hungered for an affordable education option, one that didn't force them to leave the life they knew to earn it. One that kept them in the community with family and loved ones as they obtained an education, gaining knowledge needed in the workforce.

Supported by citizens and city leaders, the University dared to go against the gatekeepers and fought for the establishment of today's USI. The institution, however, would be nothing without the students who dared to make a better life for themselves. 

The Class of 1971, the University’s first graduating class, is 50 years old this year. Many who enrolled were nontraditional students fresh from the fields of Vietnam's war zones in the late 60s. Others were young mothers or innocent high schoolers seeking to make something of their lives. In this section, we proudly share the first graduating classes' reflective stories of triumph and the voices of many alumni over the decades.

Edward Daum '71

I was 22 years old when I first enrolled. The school was located in an old grade school building somewhere near Fulton Avenue. I had just returned home from military service in Vietnam and was being enrolled through the Veterans Administration's Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Without this program, I would not have gone to college.

My first class was during the summer; an English class. All the students in the class had just completed their senior year in high school and here I was, an older military veteran who had to stand in the back of the room because back injuries prevented me from sitting in a chair.

In the fall, when the school moved to the University's current location, I met several of my grade school friends who I had not seen for many years. They had also just returned from Vietnam, and they were also just beginning their college education. It was nice having peers at school.

Dr. Edward Marting [Professor Emeritus of Accounting] provided me much needed career guidance. He set me on a path to a very successful career...[following] my progress all through school and gave me much encouragement when needed. After all these years, I can still recall some of the conversations I had with Dr. Marting. He truly cared about his students.

Charlie Scheidegger '71

I was graduating from Cannelton High School, Cannelton, Indiana, in 1967 at 17 years old. The motivation for male high school grads to attend college in 1967 was the Vietnam War, which was at full throttle, and yes, there was a draft if you weren't enrolled in college full-time. I had two college options: a basketball scholarship at a startup college or an ISUE academic tuition scholarship. I chose basketball and spent [my] first college quarter at Northwood Institute, where I made it to the final cut but didn't make the team. I moved back to Cannelton and enrolled at ISUE/USI.

During my three and a half years at ISUE/USI, I worked 30-35 hours a week at Arby's on the east side—full time during the summer—and dated my high school sweetheart, Cindy. We married in October of my senior year. I joined the Army Reserve in June after graduating, because I would have been drafted in July.

My ISUE/USI degree helped me secure my first job, helped me move into management for two years and allowed me to be a "personnel specialist" in the Army Reserve. I had a successful 30-year career in sales. I’m proud to see how amazingly far the University has advanced in 50 years.

Gerald "Jerry" King '71

I started my "life's great educational adventure" in a two-room brick country school in Posey County. It was during this time I came to love history and geography. I liked Native American Indian culture and found arrowheads in the fields by our house.

When I graduated from Mt. Vernon High School in 1960, I had no plans of attending college. After four years in the Army National Guard, during the height of the Cold War, I worked at Kroger and Whirlpool until 1966. I never forgot my love of history, geography and anthropology.

In 1966, I started thinking seriously about my future. I’d heard motivational speakers challenging me with "everyone has a purpose and a gift for doing something to make the world a better place." The ISUE campus would be the catalyst that allowed me to help change things for [others].

I wondered if I could attend...if I could afford it. I went to ISUE’s office on St. Joe and said I wanted to enroll. A pleasant young lady reached into a filing cabinet and pulled out some papers. After filling them out, she said, "You are now a student this fall. What would you like to take?" I took ancient Greek, Roman, English, Russian and of course, American history classes, and later, educational courses. My senior year, I did my student teaching at Harrison High School in 1970. Because of my experience at ISUE/USI, I was able to share my love for history and fulfill my dream of challenging the minds of many students.

Karen Markham '71

To understand the character of the class of '71, it's important to understand the changing world we were born in to. Our parents grew up in the Great Depression where the highest education usually obtained was a high school diploma. Their parents often had no more than an eighth-grade education. College was for rich people only.

We Baby Boomers started arriving at the end of World War II—and there were lots of us! I remember, as far back as kindergarten, waiting my turn to play with a toy only to have the teacher call time before it was [ever my turn]. Education, however, was changing. By the time I was ready to graduate from grade school, I had to decide whether I wanted to take the college or business lane in high school. I chose the college lane, although I had no idea how I could afford it or where I could go.

In my sophomore year, Indiana State University started an extension in Evansville, and for me it was a golden ticket to higher education. To finance my education, I had to gamble on the future with student loans, small scholarships and the occasional part-time job. I studied English. I loved writing and hoped to have a career in it.

I graduated and reality set in; the economy was in a recession. I had a classical education, looking for work in blue collar Evansville. After months of searching, I found a job with the local welfare department as a caseworker. The doors that were opened [by my education] have never closed.

Patricia Hougland Phillips '71
Elementary Education

Remembering 54 years ago, when I enrolled at ISUE as an "older" student. I was 33 at the time and enrollment was in the old Centennial Gymnasium. I was scared to death and would have run out the nearest door, had I not shot my mouth off to so many people about going to college. I was just lucky enough to get Eric von Fuhrmann's table to enroll in [his English class and Dr. Donald Pitzer's history course]. [Professor Von Fuehrmann] asked what I had written in the past 16 years. "Uhhh, grocery lists and notes on the refrigerator."

Several days later, when I sat in Dr. Pitzer's classroom with my notebook and pencil in hand, curling plaster
falling on the floor, a certain calm engulfed my body. The 16 years had not made a difference. I was ready!!!

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