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End of a Chapter: IPFW Through the Years

Courtesy of IPFW Archives

Photo credit:

Courtesy of IPFW Archives
Written by: Communicator StaffApril 21, 2018

Written by: Ben Bailey

After 54 years, Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) will split July 1.

When students return to the campus in the fall, the university will have taken on the colors, branding and name of Purdue University Fort Wayne.

While Indiana University will still have a presence on campus, its programs will be limited to health sciences. All other programs formerly offered by Indiana University will be switched over to Purdue University.

In addition, Purdue University Fort Wayne will not offer degrees in philosophy or geosciences, both of which were offered by IPFW.

IPFW has been a staple of the Fort Wayne community for over five decades, and has seen many noteworthy events, people, and periods of time.

In an interview, IPFW archivist Denise Buhr reflected on some of these defining moments that lead thousands of current students and alumni to call IPFW home.

“Indiana University has actually had a presence here in Fort Wayne since 1917,” Buhr said.

On the other hand, Purdue University became a part of the Fort Wayne community in the 1940s.

It wasn’t until the early 1960s when leaders from both Fort Wayne universities came together with an idea that the two could work together to create a unified space in the city for students.

In 1963, Indiana University and Purdue University broke ground on the university that, in 1964, would become IPFW.

Initially, the university was limited to a single building that is now known as Kettler Hall. The unique shape of Kettler Hall is due to the the building’s initial division by university. When the university opened, half of Kettler belonged to Purdue students, and the other half belonged to Indiana students.

As a single building university, the library collection was also kept in Kettler Hall in the early years of IPFW. Then, in 1972, the university opened the Helmke Library, which was renovated last year.

When the library opened, campus was shut down for two days as members of the community hand carried every book from Kettler Hall to Helmke Library.

“Everyone from the chancellor down to the janitors, including the students, carried all of the books over to the library,” Buhr said.

IPFW has only shut down a few other times throughout the years, and its most significant shutdown was in 1982 when the Fort Wayne flood covered much of the campus.

Immediately following the flood, then U.S. president Ronald Reagan, along with IPFW students participated in sandbagging efforts throughout the city.

IPFW has hosted numerous other celebrities, politicians, and public figures throughout its history.

Notably, in 1983, the rock group Genesis came to IPFW. This was the year after front man Peter Gabriel left the band to be replaced by then drummer Phil Collins.

While the two universities shared the same space throughout the campus’s early years, they were not administratively united until the 1980s.

“There’s always been some tension with the cooperation between IU and Purdue,” Buhr said.

When the universities did come together, numerous questions had to be answered such as the name of the school’s mascot and its colors.

The answer to both of these questions was solved, in part, by the campus newspaper.

Originally founded in 1969, The Communicator played a large role in forming the unified campus identity throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. Voting ballots were included with issues of the Communicator that allowed students to select preferred mascot names and school colors.

The schools’ blue and white colors, which for a time were red and gold, were eventually selected after a period of debate.

Courtesy of IPFW Archives

Courtesy of IPFW Archives

The Mastodon would eventually be chosen as the school’s mascot after mastodon bones were found north of Fort Wayne. Other ballot options included the Boiler-Hoosiers, the Hobbits or the Elves, both references from Lord of the Rings.

Lord of the Rings actor, Sean Astin, who came to IPFW in 2010, was a guest speaker in the campus’ Omnibus Lecture Series. The Omnibus Lecture Series has brought numerous high profile individuals to IPFW’s campus including scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, actors Henry Winkler and James Earl Jones, and politicians Jeb Bush and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the years it has been in existence.

Some of the biggest athletic names from IPFW’s campus come from men’s volleyball.

Coach Arnie Ball ended his career at IPFW with 570 total wins as well as an appearance in the Division 1 NCAA Championship match in 2007. Ball’s son and former IPFW student Lloy Ball lead the Olympic men’s volleyball team to a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

IPFW’s men’s volleyball team has had numerous other notable events in its history including a 1983 visit by the Russian National Team.

IPFW’s men’s basketball team completed the shift to Division 1 in Sept. 2002. This decision was controversial in the campus community as the move resulted in some players losing a year of eligibility.

In the arts, IPFW’s theater department has performed many nationally award winning theater productions.

During the 1972-1973 season, IPFW performers traveled to Washington D.C. for put on Dames at Sea at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This was the first ever production to receive a standing ovation at the American College Theatre Festival.

IPFW’s theater has also put on productions that sparked conversation in the Fort Wayne community. In particular, the 2001 production of Corpus Christi drew protests from some community groups.

While Buhr said she is sad Indiana University is losing most of its presence in Fort Wayne, she also said the history of IPFW is not over.

“The thing is, our history isn’t going away, it’s just the name and some programs,” Buhr said. “We’re still here, and we’ll add more to our history.”

While some aspects of the university remain in question due to these administrative changes, Buhr described the situation by saying “It’s just the end of a chapter, and our campus will move on to the next chapter.”