By: Alexandra Stepp, IU Bicentennial Oral History Project, Class of 2019, History, IU Southeast
Certainly all of the oral history interviews I have conducted thus far have been fascinating. Everyone I have interviewed has provided such interesting details about their experiences at IU Southeast and how the campus has grown and evolved. One of the interviews that stands out to me the most, though, is the one that I conducted with Dr. Claudia Crump.
Dr. Claudia Crump taught at IU Southeast as a professor of education beginning in 1968 until her retirement in 1993. Even after teaching for over 25 years, Dr. Crump remained passionate about helping students. So, just months after she retired, she became co-founder and co-director of the Center for Cultural Resources at IU Southeast. She still holds this position nearly 25 years later. IU Southeast has been honored by Dr. Crump’s service for a total of over 50 years.
Dr. Crump was born in Sulphur Well, Kentucky, on February 21, 1930. Teaching was her first love. Ironically, she describes her own early education as sparse; for a significant portion of her childhood she attended a one-room schoolhouse near Canmer, Kentucky. Growing up in a very rural region meant that the schoolhouse was located quite a distance from Dr. Crump’s home. During my interview with her she recalled spending hours on a school bus travelling to and from school. She even remembered times when her father would have to take her to school on horseback.
But she loved even the few hours that she got to spent learning. She described herself as having been an ambitious child who was inspired by her aunt and mentor who was also a teacher. The example of her aunt in addition to Dr. Crump’s self-described natural instinct to help people drove her to excel in school. As soon as she graduated in 1948 from high school she enrolled at Western Kentucky University. But she did not even finish her degree before becoming a teacher. After just one year of college, Dr. Crump was hired at the age of 19 to teach second grade in a schoolhouse in Lebanon Junction, Kentucky. She continued to attend Western Kentucky University while she taught and graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in education in 1952. She then moved to teaching elementary education first in Charlestown, Indiana, and then in Clarksville, Indiana.
Dr. Crump describes her hope to become a teacher.
She quickly moved up the ranks in her positions at elementary schools in Indiana. She became the elementary coordinator for schools in Clarksville, a position which made her the supervisor of teachers much older than her. This position and her continuous desire to learn more inspired her to continue her education; she resigned from her teaching position and then enrolled at IU Bloomington. From there she earned her Master’s in Education in 1957 and then her Ph.D. in 1968.
Right at the time Dr. Crump was graduating with her doctorate, a position in the education department opened up at IU Southeast. For Dr. Crump, this was a position she deeply desired. Since she began her higher education, she said that “I knew that IUS was my place” and the school was where she one day hoped to teach. Despite a recent policy issued by IU administrators that ordered that faculty from outside the IU network be hired for the purpose of promoting more diversity of background, Dr. Crump received the position.
During her time on campus, Dr. Crump has certainly left her mark. She has worked hard to make a personal connection with her students and wrote on her life history form that she has about 5,000 children: none biologically, but many with whom she has become close during her time teaching. She also helped give rise to a generation of teachers who were focused on active, personalized teaching based on the needs of individual students. Her focus was utilizing the lessons she learned from her practical experiences in teaching to help her students become the best teachers possible. She did this for 25 years.
Listen to Dr. Crump describe the move from Jeffersonville to the new IU Southeast campus.
The desire to teach did not fade for Dr. Crump even once she retired. Rather, it combined with her second love: traveling and learning about other cultures. She has visited an astounding 45 to 50 countries during her lifetime; so many that when I asked her, her initial response was “I lost count.”
Of these countries, she has visited Russia and Japan four times each. But she was not about visiting as a tourist. Instead, she described how she stayed in houses while she was there to fully immerse herself in the culture of whichever country she was visiting. She wanted to learn not just about the major architectural attractions but about the people who populated each region.
Just as she applied her teaching experiences to her time as a professor at IU Southeast, she applied her love of learning about other peoples and the information she learned about other cultures to the second half of her time on campus. Only two months into retirement, Dr. Crump explains that while she was extremely busy after she retired she felt like she was “doing nothing worthwhile.”
Her boredom drew her back onto campus to work on the collection of culture kits that she and Professor Carolyn Diener had begun collecting while Dr. Crump was still teaching. This turned into a full-time volunteer position as she became co-founder of the Center for Cultural Resources alongside Dr. Diener when the center opened on April 22, 1993. The center has grown immensely since then. “We started out with 13 culture kits and now we have over 100,” Dr. Crump states.
During this passage, Dr. Crump discusses coming back to IU Southeast and the development of the Center for Cultural Resources.
It is clear from her interview that Dr. Crump is passionate about these culture kits and the potential they hold for teachers in the region. These kits are large plastic containers which contain information about a specific culture. This information comes in the form of a lesson plan, artifacts, primary sources, books, and other resources from whichever region to which the kit pertains. Teachers from the region can come to the center and borrow a kit to take back to their classrooms and teach their students about different peoples. In this way, the center promotes diversity and provides a way for students to connect with people from other countries.
Throughout nearly all of my interviews, I have learned of the various ways in which IU Southeast has impacted its students and employees. Many have described how IU Southeast became like home to them, how their professors pushed them to excel, and how their education at the school helped them to understand themselves. Dr. Crump, too, described how the teachers, faculty, and staff whom she spent decades with shaped her and became like her family.
However, Dr. Crump provides an example of how IU Southeast does not merely shape people but of how the people of IU Southeast shape the campus. For so many years, Dr. Crump has dedicated her life in service to the school. She shaped generations of teachers, instilling within them her ideas of engaged, personal learning specific to each student. Not only did she share and spread her passion for teaching, but she also contributed the physical embodiment of her love for learning about other cultures in the form of the Center for Cultural Resources. In these ways she has left a permanent mark on the school.
Finally, Dr. Crump talks about the opening of the Center for Cultural Resources as a standout event in her memory.
The 25th anniversary of the center is approaching rapidly. As it arrives, it will serve as a reminder not just of the efforts of the school to expand the community’s access to knowledge and diversity, but also the hard work and dedication of those who make the school function.
It is the honor and privilege of IU Southeast to claim Dr. Claudia Crump as one of our own, a person who betters not just the campus but also the world around her.