Living History: Celebrating the College's First 115 Years and 50 Years of the Friends of IC
The College’s first 115 years—and the 50th anniversary of the Friends of Ithaca College—are celebrated with a six-month exhibition at the History Center. by Mbeti Hyess
Women must sign out when they leave and sign back in when they return to the dormitory. They must report where and with whom they are going. If they return late, it will be marked in red. If they accumulate too many latenesses, they will be “campused”—not be allowed to leave campus for a period of time. After that, their permission [to leave] will be restricted.
These were among the rules imposed on female students at Ithaca in the early 1920s, and the “permissions ledger” the women signed was carefully guarded. One such ledger is on display at the History Center in Tompkins County through the end of February—part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Friends of Ithaca College and the special relationship between the town of Ithaca and its namesake college.
The ledger is just one of many unusual artifacts from the College’s first 115 years. “It’s a fascinating document in terms of how they mandated women’s behavior at the time,” says Bridget Bower, IC’s archivist and one of the team that put the exhibition together, along with institutional advancement colleagues led by Elayne Nicholas and History Center (HC) staff led by Marie Shopsis, Judy Schapiro Dietz ’76 [see XXXXX], and Kelly Calnon Falck. (One might wonder how the women were “campused” when half of downtown Ithaca was part of the IC campus!)
“To consolidate more than a century of the College’s history into panels,” says Bower, “was quite a task.” There is much vital regional connection. For example, the College nearly went bankrupt in the late 1930s and was rescued by the Chamber of Commerce and downtown merchants. “They forgave a lot of debt to keep the College afloat,” says Bower. “The exhibit has the actual documents [IC president] Leonard B. Job sent to them, saying even the silverware is mortgaged, so if you foreclose you won’t get anything, whereas if you float us we’ll be a longtime viable institution!”
Student intern Raechel Lutz ’07 spent the spring semester working on the project, concentrating on the five original Friends of IC. “Some of the most valuable information came from interviews with one of their children,” she says. “Talking to alumni whose history with IC goes way back gave me a new perspective on my own place in the College’s history.”
Among the other unusual specimens in the exhibition is a beanie from 1967. Remember them? For several decades they were required wearing for all first-year men. There’s a “Frosh” button from the 1930s (required wearing for all first-year women), a paddle from the early dramatic society the Amards, a class ring from the 1920s, a 1930s wrestling singlet, Beach Boys and Chad & Jeremy concert tickets from campus (1966), a condom distributed in the Ithacan (late 1990s), and more.
Although Bower spends her days collecting, cataloging, and sometimes sharing with the public such treasures from the College’s rich history, often she is the only one who knows particular stories. She is thrilled that the History Center exhibit and its outpost displays around town will bring them to a wider audience and help renew interest in preserving today’s history for the future.
“I saved that permissions ledger from a huge pile,” says Bower, “with all sorts of things that were about to be thrown out to make room in some office. That was about 10 years ago. Now it’s one of my favorite things in this exhibit.”