IU Northwest History

IU Northwest is the result of growth and change that began in 1921 when the university offered its first formal classes in Lake County as part of a program sponsored by the Gary Public School System. Under various names and in various locations, Indiana University has been serving the needs of higher education in Northwest Indiana ever since, with our first building being founded on our current location in 1959.

We are proud to be IU in Northwest Indiana, committed to fulfilling the promise of ensuring all of our students have access to personal, affordable and life-changing education.


Description of the video:

As Indiana University prepares to commemorate the Bicentennial in 2020, the Indiana University Northwest also commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Glen Park campus in 2019.  In this digital scrapbook, we will try to chronicle the glorious history of IU’s involvement in Northwest Indiana, and the solid record of growth and achievement over the last six decades of Indiana University Northwest.

Did you know that Indiana University extension classes may have been offered in the Calumet Region as early as 1917? The earliest documented classes began in 1921 when Gary school

Superintendent William A. Wirt persuaded the Extension Division to offer night classes at Jefferson

School, located in the heart of downtown Gary as well as in Froebel High School and the Gary Public Library.


The extension courses were under the administration of Albert Fertsch, the director of adult education in the Gary Public Schools, who now carried the additional title of Secretary of the Gary

University Extension Committee. From the beginning the extension courses appealed to non-traditional students. Fertsch announced that the "university extension recognizes the fact that education is not to be regarded in Gary as a privilege for a few nor as a concern for a short period of youth but is to be universal and lifelong for all."                                              

By spring semester of 1925, enrollment in the extension courses in Gary had grown to 559,

almost one-tenth of the state-wide enrollment in Indiana University's Extension Division. 

By 1928, IU had begun offering scholarships to Gary extension students. By the early 30's it offered over sixty-five courses, which represented almost the entire IU extension program in Lake County. 

Starting in 1932, the Indiana University Extension shared facilities with Gary College, and continued to offer a few courses in Gary, but it now shifted its emphasis west. In the summer of 1932 it opened the Hammond-Whiting-East Chicago Center in East Chicago Roosevelt High School. 

The Hammond-Whiting-East Chicago Center began in the fall of 1932 with a schedule of

thirty-two classes, an enrollment of 253 students and four full-time instructors.  In 1936, the university renamed the institution as the Calumet Center of Indiana University.  The following year, IU’s new, dynamic president, Herman B Wells, decided to build a permanent structure in Lake County. 

Several Lake County cities competed to win the new site by donating the land.  Gary made an overture but because of Gary College was never in the running. Hammond proposed to donate a twenty-acre site next to its new civic center, an area large enough to offer possibilities of growth. But before the Hammond City Council had acted, East Chicago Mayor Andrew Rooney engineered two special meetings of the East Chicago City Council in one evening, unprecedented in the history of the city, in order to rush through East Chicago's offer of 2.3 acres in Tod Park on Indianapolis Boulevard.  IU accepted East Chicago’s offer, since it was more centrally located in the region.

Construction proceeded rapidly, and President Wells and the Board of Trustees dedicated the building in December of 1939, the first time IU's Board of Trustees had met outside of Bloomington.  The new building cost $127,000 and contained a library, chemistry and physics laboratories, classrooms, and a student lounge.


Enrollment at the Calumet Center steadily grew. A record 1,733 students registered for the fall semester of 1940. In addition, the Calumet Center sought to become a cultural icon in the region and promoted the fine arts, music, and creative writing. Students also took advantage of the Tod Park recreational facilities, including a swimming pool, tennis courts, softball fields, and a golf course.


In 1932, Gary Schools Superintendent William A. Wirt decided to establish a municipal junior college, creating Gary College, located in Horace Mann High School, with Albert Fertsch as director. Dr. Wirt was committed to offering college-level courses to all Gary students, regardless of their ability to pay tuition.


Gary College's initial 1932 enrollment of 318 students (191men and127 women) was, in fact, larger than 253 students attending the IU classes offered by the Hammond-East Chicago-Whiting Center that same year. 

Gary College lived up to those ideals by sending many students on to complete their education at other institutions.  In addition, because Gary College was a junior college and not an extension center, it could confer degrees. Its first commencement took place at Horace Mann auditorium for five graduates. 

In 1937, IU stepped up its number of courses in Gary. Fertsch billed this move as a "reopening of the Gary Center." The increased curriculum offering would enable students to complete the first three years of college at home, and Extension enrollment in Gary immediately outstripped Gary College.

Gary College had made a crucial difference in the lives of those students who took advantage of the opportunities it offered, but after World War II, with thousands of returning veterans, and the GI Bill, Gary College no longer adequately meet the growing demand for higher education in Gary.  After several years in the post-WWII era, Indiana University absorbed Gary College into the IU Gary Extension Center in 1948.

In June, 1948 Gary Schools Superintendent Lutz and IU President Herman B Wells jointly announced that Gary College would now be known as Indiana University Gary College, with Albert Fertsch continuing as the director.  In addition, IU signed a 5-year lease to relocate the institution to Seaman Hall at City Methodist Church in downtown Gary.  Fall 1948 enrollment approached 1,100 students. The term “Gary College” was dropped, and the IU Gary Center became the higher education institution in the steel city.


In 1954, Indiana University announced plans to construct a new building in Northwest Indiana.  President Wells and Trustee Ray C. Thomas favored a site in Gary’s Gleason Park, located in the city’s Glen Park neighborhood.  The City of Gary donated 26.5 acres of parkland for the new center in 1956.  The deal was consummated on January 4, 1956, when Trustee Ray Thomas pulled a one dollar bill from his pocket and gave it to Mayor Mandich in token payment for the Gleason Park site.


Groundbreaking occurred in August, 1957, and in May 1959 a parade of students, faculty, administrators, and city officials led the way from downtown Gary to the grand opening of the new campus in Glen Park.  The students made a ceremonial entrance into the new building to explore its twenty-two classrooms, library, laboratories, student lounge and 600-seat auditorium. As Post-Tribune reporter Don Flynn put it: "An intellectual bauble flashed across the Gary sky this year and settled to earth in Gleason Park." He called the new campus "much admired, much discussed, and a feather in the cap of the Steel City."


Finally, the university dedicated the new campus and building in Fall 1959.  The festivities included a performance of “Rigoletto” in the new theater, which would become a cultural hub in northwest Indiana. 

The first building in the new campus, the Gary Center building, is dedicated in 1959. The building became known informally as the “Gary Main”. Two years later in 1961, Theater Northwest is founded. It became the first such program at an IU regional campus.

Finally, IU decided to merge the Calumet Center and the Gary Center into the Northwest Campus of Indiana University. The First commencement of the combined university took place in 1967 at the Gleason Park golf Course. This also happened to be the first regional campus commencement. That same year IU Northwest started offering a BA in African-American Studies, one of the earliest programs in the US.


The decade of seventies witnessed a series of developments at IU Northwest. In 1972, the Northwest Center for Medical Education opened. Lindenwood Hall was purchased in 1973, followed by the inauguration of Hawthorn Hall in 1976. In 1977, the Division of Continuing Studies was formed, and finally in 1978, the Gary Main building was renamed Tamarack Hall.

IU Northwest continued its growth in 1980’s and 1990’s. The Library/Conference building was opened in 1980. On the academic front, the Women Studies Program started in 1988. In 1991, Marram Hall was added to the campus landscape.

IU Northwest ushers in the New Millennium

At the turn of the new millennium, the campus got two new facilities, Savannah Hall and the Child Care Center. In the period of 2004-2006, the Dunes Medical/Professional building was inaugurated in two phases. 2006 also witnessed the dedication of the Sculpture Garden. Academically, the campus continued to grow. In 2007, the new College of Health and Human Services was founded. Thus, all health and social service related programs were brought under one umbrella.

While the campus continued to grow, a disaster struck the campus in 2008. Campus is flooded with water overflowing from the Little Calumet River.  Campus was closed for 2 weeks in September. Tamarack Hall was shut down altogether due to flooded areas in the Theater and elsewhere.  Performing Arts activities were moved to the rented space at the Village Shopping Center at 35th Avenue and Grant Street. In 2012, Tamarack Hall was finally demolished, and the time capsule buried in tamarack Hall was opened. Since Tamarack Hall was lost, IU Northwest and Indiana University decided to build a new state-of-the-art building on the east side of Broadway. Groundbreaking of the new building, called the Arts & Science Building took place in 2015. The building was dedicated to the campus community in 2017. Besides modern classrooms and office spaces, this new building has a 500-seat auditorium. Ivy Tech Community College also shares classroom and office spaces in this building.

We hope this scrapbook has provided a nice collage of the significant milestones in the history of IU Northwest. As we celebrate the 60th anniversary at the Glen Park campus, we feel proud to make contribution to the higher education landscape of Northwest Indiana. We are committed to provide high quality education to the citizens of Northwest Indiana with sincerity and dedication.

Rolling Credits: Include the photos of Principal Researchers Subir Bandyopadhyay, Professor of Marketing, Stephen McShane, Curator/Archivist of Calumet Regional Archives, and Danielle Roeske, Student Intern.




IU Northwest History Timeline