Indiana University Kokomo

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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

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Persistence pays off for Indiana University Kokomo senior Samantha Thieke, who recently began her first broadcast journalism job, as a reporter for WLFI-TV, the CBS affiliate in West Lafayette.

Samantha ThiekeSamantha Thieke"Now I have a career I'm proud of, and it makes me grateful I came to IU Kokomo, to get a college degree in my home town," she said. "I'm able to do what I want to do with my life, on my own terms. It's pretty neat to have a job, even before I graduate."

Her official title is multiplatform journalist, which she describes as "kind of a one-man band thing." Thieke shoots and edits her own video, writes her stories, and posts them on the station's website, along with reporting on the air.

"Most of the time, it's just me working by myself," she said. "That's the way the industry is shifting."

She is grateful for the opportunities she had on campus, including participating in Cougar News and leadership courses.

"I had thought because there wasn't a broadcast degree here, that I wouldn't be able to have a career in that field, but that's not necessarily true," she said. "It is more than possible to achieve your career goals with a general studies degree, and I am a walking example of that. IU Kokomo allowed me to earn a college degree in my hometown, where I had family to help me. I owe a lot to this school."

Thieke, 25, caught the news bug in high school, taking broadcasting classes at the Kokomo Area Career School, along with dual credit classes at IU Kokomo. She planned to take prerequisite classes on campus, and then transfer to a college with a broadcast journalism program, after she graduated from Eastern High School.

Her plans changed drastically, though, when she became a mother at age 20.

"Life happened," she said. "I put what I wanted to do on the back burner. I needed to stay in Kokomo, where I had family to help me take care of my son while I worked and went to school. I do feel like people who thought I had potential wrote me off as a statistic at that point, That's what kept me motivated to keep going towards my degree."

Setting an example for her son, Gabe, who is now 5, also motivates her.

"I want him to see that no matter what obstacles you face in your life, you can overcome them," she said. "When you have a child, your life is not about you anymore, but you do have to keep improving yourself, to make a better life for your child. I want him to be proud of me."

She took a few classes at a time, as they fit around her schedule with work and family obligations. Her journalism dreams seemed out of reach, though, with no broadcasting program.

A confidence boost from a significant weight loss pushed her to see how she could use her general studies degree to become a television reporter.

"I decided it was time to enroll full time, finish my degree, and get on with my career," she said."

She pursued internship opportunities, and beat out candidates from broadcast degree programs to earn one at WRTV 6, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis. That experience confirmed her career choice, so she looked for another internship. This time, she garnered an opportunity at WLFI.

With graduation approaching, she started to worry about having to move far away to get a job. Her husband, Brandon, was willing to move, but she hoped to stay close to family.

"I just prayed God would open a door for us," she said.

Her opportunity came five weeks into her internship, when Thieke's supervisor encouraged her to apply for a full time opening at the station. She was both surprised and thrilled when she was offered the job. One of the requirements is that she lives in Tippecanoe County, so her family will move after she graduates.

Thieke is glad to see the finish line is sight for her college education, and has no regrets about the path she took to achieve her goal.

"Because of the way things happened, I feel I was able to grow and mature," she said. "I'm really proud of what I've done. It's taken me a little longer, but I'm going to have my degree, and I've started my dream career."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.