Editor’s Note: Writer Mary Sego is an archival assistant and processing specialist within Archives and Special Collections.
As a Purdue alum and thirty-one year Purdue employee, I always reflect upon Purdue as a new semester begins. I remember back as this Hoosier farm girl took her first steps onto a large campus with hopes and dreams waiting to be fulfilled. I followed in the footsteps of 4 older siblings, and 1 younger followed me. This meant 48 move-in trips for my parents and 16 continuous years of having at least one student on campus, sometimes two or three. I am now seeing the hopes and dreams being realized for the next generation, as now two younger relatives have chosen Purdue for their college educations.
Working in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center has been an incredible opportunity. I have had the honor and pleasure to have processed 123 collections, including the Neil A. Armstrong papers, along with nearly 700 faculty and alumni folders. I have seen alumni, researchers, faculty and staff, along with the general public come into the Archives, and beam with pride and fascination. I have gone through boxes of unprocessed collections packed by donors that love their alma mater, and only want the best for the generations of Boilermakers that follow in their footsteps. Many feel it is their obligation to give back to the University and their fellow Boilermakers, because they feel Purdue gave so much to them.
Many of the alumni astronauts have given their collections to Purdue, in hopes that those that follow can learn from the many, many treasures found in their collections. Indeed, several have taken Purdue memorabilia into space with them, and shared their Purdue pride among the stars. They are truly loyal and dedicated alumni!
Other faculty, staff and alumni have also given their papers and collections to Purdue. The names Amelia Earhart, George Ade, John T. McCutcheon, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, and Orville Redenbacher are known to the world. Former Purdue presidents, and many other faculty, staff and alums also have their papers in Archives and Special Collections. Their contributions, and therefore their collections, are treated with equal care and respect as any other.
Some of the alumni and faculty may not be as well known, but are important none the less. One such person is Ralph S. Johnson who worked his way through Purdue as a Memorial Union food service worker. He graduated from Purdue in 1930 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering and went on to become the chief pilot for United Airlines in 1935. During the early years of WWII, he was responsible for developing and testing a myriad of programs aimed toward air safety. He was awarded a Purdue honorary Doctorate of Engineering in 2008.
Also found in the Purdue Archives are the papers of Charles A. Ellis, educator, structural engineer, and mathematician who joined the Purdue faculty in 1934. Ellis was an expert in bridge design, co-designing the Montreal Harbor Bridge and almost single-handedly designing the structure of the famed Golden Gate Bridge.
Few realize that the founder of Arnett Clinic in Lafayette, Dr. Arett C. Arnett, graduated from the Purdue University Medical School. In May, 1906, one hundred and twenty-two students received their diplomas from Purdue University and successfully passed the examination of the State Board of Medical Registration.
In the spring of 1907, Purdue graduated sixty-eight men and four women. In that class was Arett C. Arnett who helped establish a Lafayette clinic in 1922, later known as Arnett Clinic. One can find memorabilia from this class in the Purdue University School of Medicine collection.
Another collection, the John Y. D. Tse papers, comprise a compilation of ten poems and memoirs written by Tse as reflections upon forty years as a management professor, founder of the Krannert Graduate School of Business, entrepreneur, and benefactor to Purdue University. Within the volume are also photographs, reprints of letters written to Dr. Tse by colleagues, an address written by Tse for the 25th anniversary of the Krannert School of Management, and reprints of newspaper clippings and articles about and by Dr. Tse
Many wonderful scrapbooks have been donated to the Purdue Archives, all containing numerous personal items and anecdotes. One example is the Simeon V. B. Miller scrapbook (1900-1906), which contains memorabilia from Simeon Van Buren Miller’s college career at Purdue University. Involved in the train wreck of 1903, Miller compiled numerous newspaper clippings from the wreck. Simeon Miller followed in the footsteps of his father and two brothers as a member of Phi Delta Theta, and therefore his scrapbook contains a concentration of ephemera from the fraternity. He was president of the Class of 1905 during his sophomore year, and so the scrapbook also contains items from his tenure as class president. Other miscellaneous items, such as fee statements, dance cards, items from the athletic association and athletic events, score cards and fee statements, newspaper clippings on the tank scrap, and numerous other programs are also included. One can certainly learn a great deal about a person and Purdue from a single scrapbook!
This is just a small sampling of the items that can be found in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archive and Special Collections. We are here to help you and welcome a visit! You can learn more about Purdue and those that have walked the campus. Feel free to just stop by and say hello!
Our wish for you this semester is to reach for the stars, explore and enjoy your time at Purdue! We hope one day you will consider donating your papers to the Purdue Archives, and helping your fellow Boilermakers for generations to come!