Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Bridget College huddled in her basement, holding tight to her boxer puppy and her dachshund, as a tornado shifted her home off its foundation, peeled off the back wall, and tore off the roof.

Bridget and Brian CollegeBridget and Brian College.College, a nursing student at Indiana University Kokomo, crawled out the window of what was left of her home, with only the clothes she was wearing. As she left her neighborhood, she couldn't help but wonder how she was going to complete the semester.

"I have no clothes, no books and no uniforms, and finals are coming up," she said. "I had to pull it together and just get through the rest of the semester. I knew if I didn't, I wasn't going to be able to make it through."

Classmates and faculty banded together, emailing her notes for the week of classes she missed, as she salvaged what she could from her house. Bridget Whitmore, assistant dean for the School of Nursing, offered uniforms. Several classmates helped pack her remaining belongings before the house was condemned.

When she returned to school, her fellow nursing students gave her money and supplies they collected, along with a case of her beloved Diet Mountain Dew.

"That about made me cry," she said. "It's made me proud to be an IU Kokomo student, and a nursing student. They've been phenomenal, from the dean on down. I knew some of the students by name, but others I just recognize from seeing them on campus.

"I was so thankful they came to help. It reminded me that this is why you go to school to be a nurse, to help people."

She was most surprised when Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke texted to be sure she was OK, and to ask how she could help.

"I was just amazed that the chancellor took time to check on us, and to see if we needed anything," she said. "I haven't wanted for anything throughout this whole situation. Everyone has been so generous in helping us. It doesn't matter than we're not from here. I felt extremely blessed."

As an Oklahoma native, College, 41, knows it could have been much worse. She was home with the dogs, and only went to the basement because her husband called from his car and told her there was a tornado coming toward their home, on South LaFountain Street.

"In Oklahoma, a tornado warning means you go out on the front porch to take a look," she said. But because Brian was worried, and the dogs were scared, she and her pets went downstairs.

"Within five minutes of getting to the basement, our house took a direct hit," she said. "It was loud and extremely fast. I heard the roof rip off the house and I could see sunlight upstairs."

Help arrived shortly after the storm, as two of her IU Kokomo nursing friends called to see if she needed to stay with them. When her husband arrived, emergency personnel urged them to leave the neighborhood immediately because of a gas leak.

The couple returned to their home the next day only to find out they had just a short time to remove as many of their belongings as possible due to safety reasons. They contacted friends from their church and IU Kokomo, asking for help. They are grateful for the response, not only from her campus friends, but also from their church family and military colleagues.

Bridget and Brian, a navy recruiter, are settling into another rental home, and she hopes to take stock of what they have and what they need during Christmas break. Their personal belongings are scattered in seven places, from dry cleaners to friends' homes.

"We don't really even know what we have yet," she said, adding they lost most all their furniture. She is very happy her laptop was right next to that recliner, and also was saved.

Despite their losses, the Colleges continued their holiday tradition of delivering Thanksgiving meals with their church. They have volunteered for three years now, and they enjoyed the chance to return to normal routine for the day.

"It was a few hours away from the chaos," she said. "It also reminded me that whatever my situation is, there are people who have it worse than I do. It put things in perspective for me."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Remembering and learning about a piece of Kokomo's past can help shape the community's future.

Allen Safianow receives the Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr. award.Allen Safianow receives the Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr. award.

Allen Safianow, professor emeritus of history at Indiana University Kokomo, continued his love for research and spent two years gathering information for his article, "Ryan White and Kokomo, Indiana: A City Remembers," published in Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. The Indiana Historical Society recognized his efforts and recently awarded him the Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr. award for the article explaining the impact Ryan White's 1985 fight to attend school had on Kokomo.

"I hope the community will come to see the important role this event played in our history, even though it received unfavorable attention from the media," he said. "It's a complex story. We really need to understand what happened, learn from what happened, and see it in a broader context."

Safianow and his team interviewed people who played key roles during Ryan White's efforts to attend classes at Western Middle School after being diagnosed with AIDS. White, who was 14 at the time, acquired the virus through an injection of Factor VIII, as part of his treatment for hemophilia.

He was pleased to receive the honor, to bring more attention to the oral history project he led for the Howard County Historical Society. The article contains excerpts from many of the interviews, chosen to show the personal impact the story had on the community, and why it is important to remember what happened.

The Howard County Historical Society received the 2012 Indiana History Outstanding Project Award for the project.

Safianow hopes attention from the award will encourage people to visit the local historical society, look through the transcripts, view the artifacts, listen to recordings of the interviews, and reflect on what was learned.

"It's a complicated story," he said. "To have many voices contribute can give people a better understanding of what was involved. We're hoping people will take an interest in what we've done, and it will be enlightening on many levels."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Marilyn Skinner receives the highest honor given by the state of Indiana, the Sagamore of the Wabash, recognizing her decades of service to children.

Marilyn Skinner receives the Sagamore of the WabashMarilyn Skinner receives the Sagamore of the Wabash.

Skinner, director of Indiana University Kokomo's Center for Early Childhood Education, was "humbled" to receive the award.

"I don't feel like I've done anything extraordinary, I just do what I do," Skinner said. "I love to help people. I've been so fortunate in terms of my own life, having doors opened for me, and having a good education. I really have appreciated that.

"That's why when I see someone who needs help or encouragement, or a little bit of hope, I provide it so they can be successful in their lives."

Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke was one of several community leaders who nominated Skinner for the award, which was given by Gov. Mike Pence and presented by State Rep. Mike Karickhoff.

"Marilyn is most deserving of this award, as a long-time advocate for children," Sciame-Giesekce said. "She has tireless energy as a servant leader, who continues to make our community a better place."

As director of the early childhood education center, Skinner leads efforts to ensure all Howard County children begin kindergarten prepared to succeed. She's been an advocate for young children since beginning her career as a teacher at Kokomo's Bon Air Elementary School, nearly 50 years ago.

She moved from the classroom to administration, where she had the distinction of being the first woman to serve as assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent in the Kokomo school system.

Skinner, 75, jokes about how she has "failed retirement" several times. After she retired from Kokomo schools, she worked part-time for Head Start, and then supervised student teachers for three universities, before deciding it was time to "really retire."

She came out of retirement again nearly nine years ago, to serve as director of the early childhood center when it first opened, funded with a $1.5 million Lilly Endowment grant. Her careful planning has allowed the center to continue its work, still using the original grant money.

The Kokomo community also benefits from her efforts. She led the 2013 United Way of Howard County campaign as chairperson, and surpassed the $1.8 million fundraising goal. Skinner also volunteers extensively, and has held leadership positions in Altrusa, Rotary Club, and Partners in Education.

The Indiana Commission for Women honored her a trailblazer for women with its Torchbearer Award, and she also received the Indiana Women of Achievement Award for Distinction in Early Childhood Education from the College of Sciences and Humanities at Ball State University.

Skinner said, though, her greatest sense of achievement is not from these kinds of awards and honors.

"My success is seeing the students I had in school succeed," she said. "I see a lot of them in the community who have gone on to have successful lives. They have good jobs, and are active and give back in the community. I see the young children who have participated in programs at the early childhood education center, and are now successful in school. That makes me proud."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The Seiberling Mansion is decked out in its holiday best, ready for its annual Christmas celebration, with help from Indiana University Kokomo volunteers.

Decorating the Seiberling MansionDanika Smith and Jaina Hattabaugh decorate the Seiberling Mansion.

Danika Smith, Naomi Rush, and Jaina Hattabaugh, together with Dean of Students Sarah Sarber, were among the elves preparing the mansion, home to the Howard County Historical Society, for the annual holiday celebration. Each year, volunteers from community organizations are assigned a room to decorate. The IU Kokomo students worked in the Pioneer Room, using a festive red and silver theme.

Smith, who is student body vice president, hopes to make the service project an annual tradition, and to involve more students.

"This was meaningful to us, knowing that the Seiberling Mansion was IU Kokomo's first home," she said. "It was cool to look around and think about what it would have been like to attend classes there, and to see how far we've come since then."

The mansion was built in the late 1800s, and was a private residence until it became the IU Kokomo campus in 1946. The campus moved to its current home on South Washington Street in 1965.

Sarber encouraged the community, especially those connected to the campus, to visit and see the holiday decorations.

"The mansion is very special to the community, and very significant to the history of IU Kokomo," she said. "It was great to see the different themes and decorations throughout the house."

This year is the first IU Kokomo volunteers have participated in decorating, as far as historical society Executive Director Dave Broman knows.

"In some ways, it's coming home for IU Kokomo," he said. "It's a big job to decorate the Seiberling. It's a big house, with lots of room. It takes a lot of people, and a lot of decorations to make it as beautiful as it is for the season."

Hattabaugh would like to see decorating at the Seiberling become a campus tradition.

"I love Christmastime and the holidays," she said. "It was a fun way to get involved in the community and lend a helping hand at the Seiberling Mansion."

The mansion is now open for the Christmas season. For additional information about tours and tickets, go to www.howardcountymuseum.org

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.