University celebrates 50th anniversary

Megan Thorne

Former President Ray Hoops greets Betty Rice, wife of the first President David Rice, as he arrives at the Party of the Decades. The Party of the Decades was a 50th anniversary celebration that took place in the PAC Saturday.

During the USI 50th anniversary week, students were able to attend events celebrating the birth of the university. Three of the biggest events were: the Founders’ Day Banquet, the showing of “Shaping the Future: The University of Southern Indiana,” and the Party of the Decades. Each event commemorated an aspect university’s history.

Founders Day Banquet

In 1965, 412 students entered the halls of the Indiana State University Evansville campus  for the first time. Today, the independent USI has more than 9, 000 students.

At the annual Founder’s Day banquet, the university celebrated its 50th year.

Sodexo treated students, alumni, politicians and other affluent people in the community to a multiple-course meal.

The only surviving founder Rolland Eckels, and his wife Phyllis, attended.

“(Rolland) was here from the very beginning getting the ground (for the university) and sadly he’s the only one left,” Phyllis said.

During the luncheon Mayor Lloyd Winnecke gave a proclamation to the school.

“I think back to what it must have been like for those men and women who had the vision to acquire this property and to put this process in motion,” Winnecke said. “Did they envision what’s here today? I have to think that this has grown beyond their wildest expectations.”

Winnecke said it’s not only important to the city of Evansville but to our region and state, as well as the economy and academic standpoint.

The luncheon transitioned into an awards ceremony for distinguished faculty and alumni. The recipients were Stephen Small with the Honorary Alumni Award, Nancy Bizal with the Faculty Recognition Award and Judy Morton with the Alumni Service Award.

Alumni Tracy Zeller presented President Linda Bennett with a pin labeled with the new university logo. The 14 karat gold pin was adorned with rubies, sapphires and a diamond.

“Personally I love serving this institution. I love the people in this institution, Bennett said,  “I think it is a rare place as I’ve been in three other institutions, good universities all but this institution is rare.”

Since 2003 Bennett said she has not only seen growth in the size of the university but in the spirit of the institution.


USI Documentary


“Shaping the Future: The University of Southern Indiana” follows the university’s history with interviews and rare archival footage. The documentary was shown the week of the 50th anniversary and will be showing at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on WNIN.

The documentary features interviews with people such as former President David Rice, President Linda Bennett, Former President of S.I.H.E. (Southern Indiana Higher Education) Rolland Eckels and many more.

Black, an assistant professor of radio and tv and producer for the documentary  said he found it interesting to see the overall support of the community wanting the institution and then later on seeing it become independent.

“I think to follow the growth was really fun,” Black said, “And to see how the campus and the programs and everything else just grew and expanded,”

Black said“ Most of it (the documentary)  is the 11 interviews which make up a lot of the comments and then the archival footage.”

Once the interviews were finished they had to be transcribed, Black said. Two students worked with Black to transcribe all 11 interviews, then the process of going through and picking the comments that they wanted to include began in late summer.

Black said the response has been very positive towards the product. The documentary is a very prominent piece for the 50th anniversary and it was a great way to document the university’s history.

“I think it’s easy for us to take for granted what we have and what’s around us and I think the celebration of the 50th anniversary allows people to (become) aware of the past,” Black said.

Evan Stieler, junior biology major, psychology minor, said he thought the documentary was very informative, he found it very interesting to see where the university came from.

“50 years isn’t a very long time as of college development,” Stieler said, “It’s amazing to see from one or two buildings to how far we are at now, it was really cool to see,”

Stieler said he found the interviews really interesting and feels it would be cool to incorporate parts of the documentary in the UNIV 101 classes.

The documentary will help students appreciate where the university is at now. Stieler said he was looking forward to the Party of the Decades because he would be able to meet and talk to some of the people in the video.

“Maybe they won’t show the whole thing,” Stieler said, “But they could show bits and pieces of it and provide a little background for people that might not know.”

Celebration Hero
State representatives Wendy McNamara and Jerry Torr take on the dance floor during the 50th anniversary event, Party of the Decades, Saturday in the PAC


Party of the Decades

The Party of the Decades celebrated USI’s 50th anniversary birthday party, with $100 tickets and sold out with 500 tickets.

The night began with an hour-long cocktail reception. Student Union president, Robert Roeder and Student Government President Alexa Bueltel gave the welcoming address.

“Tonight we’re celebrating USI’s history, where we came from, where we are today,” Bueltel said Saturday. “This is such an awesome feeling having so many people in the community here showing the amount of support they have for USI.”

Along with an open bar through a local pub, Sodexo catered meals to nearly 500 people. The meal included Champagne sorbet in sugar rimmed flutes and Filet Mignon.

Many influential people were in attendance including U.S. representative Larry Buschon, Lieutenant Gov. Sue Ellspermann, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, USI’s former first lady Betty Rice and  President Linda Bennett.

“It’s hard to imagine what this region,” Buschon said, “what this state would be like without USI.”