Thursday, January 7, 2016

On Their Shoulders

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  Isaac Newton

State Senator Earline Rogers is retiring after 38 years as a public official.  The Gary Roosevelt grad and former teacher began her political career on the city council as an ally of mayor Richard G. Hatcher but eventually became part of the so-called “No Name” group that opposed him and supported Thomas Barnes when Hatcher ran for a sixth term in 1987.  In 1995 she was a candidate for mayor, but the entry of a second black candidate, City Judge Charles Graddick, enabled criminal attorney Scott King to prevail.  In The Statehouse File Lucas Lloyd summarized her impressive accomplishments:
During her tenure at the Statehouse, Rogers was a key voice for children. She authored Heather’s Law, which develops models for schools to educate their students on dating violence. Rogers also authored a school bus safety legislation known as Jo Jo’s law to provide safe transport to students. Additionally, she wrote the state’s first bi-literacy program and strengthened provisions to ensure prospective teachers receive adequate training.
Her most notable accomplishments include her push to create a pathway to allow casino gaming in Indiana. Her efforts moved riverboat casinos inland, opening harbor space, encouraging interstate competition and generating additional jobs in the area. Rogers gained worldwide attention with legislation to raise the age for execution in the state.
This year Rogers will renew her efforts to provide resident tuition rates for children of undocumented workers and expand pre-kindergarten pilot programs.

Also retiring, 87 year-old Harry Porterfield, above, after 51 years as a Chicago television reporter and news anchor.  The longtime Miller resident was a class act known for a feature called Someone You Should Know.

2015 was a year of milestones, as most years are, for celebrating historical event as well as personal landmarks.  I graduated from high school 55 years ago, married Toni 50 years ago, received a PhD and got a job at IUN 45 years ago, and started Steel Shavings 40 years ago.  My mother Midge passed away less than a year shy of her hundredth birthday, a half-century after my dad Vic died suddenly of a heart attack.

Tuesday IUN’s cafeteria was pretty much deserted despite it being Registration week.  Occasionally a staff member or Physical Plant worker wandered in to purchase carry-out items, but no faculty were in sight.  Back in the 1970s there’d be long Registration lines, and faculty would sit behind tables and hand out computer-generated tickets for various classes until there were none left, signifying that the class was closed.  It was a nice way to meet and socialize with professors from other departments, but it was an ordeal for students.  The IBM punch cards became the source of the 1965 UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement slogan, “I am a UC student.  Please do not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate me.”   
Klan members in Valpo, 1923

In “Hoosier State Chronicles” Stephen J. Taylor described how in 1923 the Ku Klux Klan almost took over Valparaiso University.  Posing as a defender of Protestant Christianity, the Klan was quite strong in Valpo, and the university was struggling financially.  Founded in 1859, the school was famous for admitting women, students from overseas and those from working-class backgrounds.  By 1920 it was facing stiff competition from state universities and received few applicants from abroad. Trustees were willing to sell to Klan officials, but the KKK could not come up with the agreed-upon money.  In 1925 the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, in Taylor’s words, “rescued the run-down, almost abandoned school.”

In the Editor’s Note to Steel Shavings, volume 45, I’ll mention that Ronald Cohen came up with the name for the magazine and that the inspiration for “Calumet Region Connections” was an IUN LGBT group of that name, only its last letter is a “z,” not “s.”  Anne Balay, who will be speaking at VU about her book “Steel Closets” in February, was its faculty adviser. I shall again use the subtitle “My Name Is Gary” – the name of an acclaimed documentary by French filmmakers Frederic Cousseau and Blandine Huk.  Gary legends Dharathula “Dolly” Millender and Claude Taliaferro will grace the cover.  Both were true educators, Millender as librarian and historian, Taliaferro as teacher and coach, who mentored and inspired countless young people. 

Though less famous than brother George, an IU and NFL football star, Claude Taliaferro carried on the rich, rigorous traditions of his alma mater Gary Roosevelt.  Dolly served on the Gary Common Council, resurrected the Gary Symphony Orchestra after its forerunner fled to Merrillville, and founded the Gary Historical and Cultural Society (GHCS).  A believer in diversity, Dolly reached out to Hispanic and white ethnic groups and held events at Jenny’s Café across from IUN, owned by union leader Larry Regan, a GHCS board member.  Dolly recalled: “If the Lithuanians were going to tell about their culture, Jenny would cook Lithuanian food.”  Millender died on Christmas Day, 2015, and Taliaferro six days later on New Year’s Eve.  Fittingly, memorial services for Dolly took place at Gary Genesis Center, while Taliaferro’s took place at St. Timothy Church, the parish of many Roosevelt educators past and present.

Former Hobart mayor Linda Buzinic wrote former Lake County surveyor George Van Til, a federal prisoner in Terre Haute due to having had enemies in high places:
            I cannot imagine what you are going through and am sickened that it is happening to you.  You are a strong individual who has done so many good things.  I tell people whenever I get the chance how good you were to me and how much you helped me when I got into the political field and what a good friend you have been since. If I failed to ever tell you that, I am sorry but want to make sure you know it.

I came upon a 56-minute documentary entitled “Gary, Indiana: A Tale of Two Cities” put together by Dr. Sandra L. Barnes of Vanderbilt University and narrated by Avery Brooks.  Both are Gary natives.  The Dickens subtitle refers to white flight and the creation of Merrillville.  IUN archivist Steve McShane furnished many of the photos.  One YouTube commenter was Sami Jadallah, an IUN student leader in the 1970s.  On a recent visit a resident told him that what was needed was to chase the thieves, murderers, and drug pushers out and give incentive for whites move back.  He wrote:
           Gary needs an infusion of fresh population that can attract high tech business and industry.  Gary needs a Come Home to Gary – a conference of the sons and daughters of Gary to knock heads and come up with a plan to re-invent the city again.  With all due respect, present leadership has failed.

Jadallah is wrong to blame present leaders, hamstrung as they are by niggardly state officials and tepid federal support.
above, Sami Jadallah; below, Victoria Voller on right at 2004 IU luncheon

An opponent at duplicate bridge, Victoria Voller, was one of my first and best students.  A big IU and IUN booster, Vicki has served on the university’s Gala Committee and as president of its Alumni Association.  My high point of the evening was bidding and making 6 no-trump despite Vicki, sitting on my left, having three kings against me.  The very next hand, however, I went down four vulnerable after bidding five clubs with a hundred honors and six of that suit.  Lamentably, partner Charlie Halberstadt was void in clubs and there was a six-one split against me.  Charlie had bid diamonds twice; I had three small ones and should have put us in his suit.

At Hobart Lanes the Engineers took two games and barely lost series.  I rolled a 455 series, good enough to win the four dollars for highest number of pins over average.  On the way to bowling I heard WXRT’s Terri Hemmert announce that she was diagnosed with stage one cancer and is taking a leave of absence to recuperate from surgery.  Her statement, posted on the radio station’s website, stated:
            You can send out good thoughts, and if you believe in prayer, I’d appreciate that. My faith has taught me over the years that you don’t pray for magic tricks and easy answers. You pray that you have the strength to handle what ever comes your way.
I was a sickly child, in and out of hospitals. My main source of inspiration was my favorite baseball player, Roy Campanella. I read his book about dealing with the auto accident that put him in a wheel chair for the rest of his life. The book is called It’s Good To Be Alive. I was 13 when I read that book….just before I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever. His story informed me how to handle that life changer. I learned to be grateful for family, friends and health care professionals. I learned to keep my sense of humor. Roy continues to be my mentor. With your support I’ll continue to be grateful, and keep my sense of humor.

WXRT's Terri Hemmert and Lin Brehmer; photo by Anne Ryan

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