Indiana State University Newsroom

Arthur Cunningham Society established to benefit ISU library, students

October 7, 2011

Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library and the ISU Foundation have announced the creation of the Arthur Cunningham Society.

Named for the then Indiana State Normal School's first librarian, who served from 1890 to 1928, the society offers alumni and others the opportunity to help strengthen the library's resources, services and facilities.

"Libraries are often called the ‘heart' of campus, and while we want to be the heart of campus, we also want to serve as its ‘campus living room.' Participation in the society will help students and faculty make use of this campus living room," said Alberta Comer, dean of the library. "I think Mr. Cunningham would be truly proud to have the society named in his memory."

Through the society's support, the library can continue to offer such services as being open 24 hours per day during Finals Week; "Extravaganza," its annual welcome back to campus event; and the Authors and Artists Reception that recognizes faculty research and creativity, Comer said.

Peggy Hazledine Apgar of Terre Haute, Cunningham's granddaughter, said her grandfather loved knowledge and books and believed in a strong library program.

"His progressive accomplishments during his tenure included putting the library on a firm financial basis, increasing the library space, extending hours, expanding the collection and the reading room, and instituting the Dewey Decimal System and a card catalogue to make the collection more accessible. In fact his wife, Bess, once commented that he was criticized for providing too much access to the books," Apgar said. "I imagine he would be pleased, honored and truly amazed that the library that bears his name has become such a dynamic and integral part of the university and the community."

Cheryl Blevens, reference/instruction librarian, said the society has been in development for several months.

"We are so pleased that we're finally going to be welcoming new members to the society who will join us in supporting the library and everything it does to support our students and the ISU community," Blevens said. "We're working on some very special events that will showcase the society and its members so we don't want anyone to miss the opportunity to become a charter member of this new organization."

Steve Brown, vice president for development with the ISU Foundation, said donations to the Arthur Cunningham Society will directly help students by providing them with more access to the resources they need to be successful at Indiana State.

"The library is as important to today's students as it was to students of Cunningham's era," he said.

Under Cunningham's leadership, the ISU library became the largest normal school library in the country. Cunningham also brought the Dewey Decimal System to St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, Rose Polytechnic Institute (now Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) and the city of Terre Haute's Fairbanks Memorial Library. He also planned a library building at the Indiana State Normal School's Eastern Division (now Ball State University).

Arthur Cunningham Society members will be recognized on the society's website and will be invited to special events throughout the year including Arthur Cunningham Day. Donors of $10,000 or more will have their names inscribed on a plaque in the library.

Donations to the society should be made payable to the ISU Foundation and sent to 30 N. Fifth Street, Terre Haute, IN 47809. More information about Cunningham Memorial Library and the Arthur Cunningham Society is available at 812-237-8986 or

Photo: - Donations to the newly established Arthur Cunningham Society will support such activities as ‘Extravaganza,' a welcome-back event for Indiana State University students at Cunningham Memorial Library. (ISU file photo)

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or