Indiana State University Newsroom

Legacy Award: Three generations attended Indiana State under four banners

October 7, 2014

A family whose members attended Indiana State University under each of its four names is the 2014 recipient of the Indiana State Alumni Association Legacy Award.

Jessie and Josephine Hood graduated from Indiana State Normal School in the early 1900s. Their nephew and nieces, Orestes Hood Jr., Ruth Hood, Gladys Hood and Dharathula "Dolly" Hood Millender, earned degrees from Indiana State Teachers College. Millender's daughter, Naomi, enrolled at Indiana State College in 1963 and completed her degree four years later from Indiana State University. Three other family members attended Indiana State but did not graduate.

"I am so proud of the institution where I got my basic education and how it is progressing and still standing tall in the area of training in the field of education," Millender said when she returned to campus Sept. 27 to be recognized with other family members during halftime of Indiana State's Family Day football game. "I was so happy to be a guest of the president and his wife who are two beautiful people. They treated us royally."

Naomi Millender noted that many buildings from her time at Indiana State have been renovated to serve future generations, rather than replaced.

"I applaud Indiana State, the alumni association, the board of directors and the president and first lady for their heartfelt courtesies extended to our family during this awesome, historic event," she said. "I am very impressed with the university's use and re-use of the buildings."

"It was an honor to spend the day with the Hood/Millender family. I enjoyed hearing about their experiences growing up in Terre Haute, their educational pursuits at Indiana State, and the significant role Indiana State University made in their lives; personally and professionally," Rex Kendall, executive director of the ISU Alumni Association said.

Daisy Hood, mother of Orestes Hood Jr. and Dolly Millender, served as state secretary of the NAACP for several years and was involved in launching several African-American organizations in Terre Haute, including the Charles T. Hyte Community Center.

Millender was one of the first African-Americans to attend Woodrow Wilson Junior High. Orestes Hood Jr. staged a one-man sit-in at Indiana State's lunch counter, Millender recently recalled.

"In those days, (blacks) could buy a hot dog and a Coca-Cola at the lunch counter but you couldn't sit down and eat it," she said. "He would go and order a hot dog and a bottle of pop and the girl (behind the counter) knew what he was going to do. She would ... pack it up nice in a bag, take his money, give it to him, then he'd rip the bag open and eat it so he could say he sat down and ate. I was scared to do stuff so I didn't follow him."

Nonetheless, Millender took an active role as a student while at Indiana State, serving on the college's student council in 1940-41, graduating with degrees in English, music appreciation and library science, fulfilling a childhood dream inspired when she encountered a black librarian at Booker T. Washington School in Terre Haute.

She told the librarian she was sad because other children disliked her.

"So the librarian made me her helper and nobody could read any of the new books ‘til I read them," she said. "That's when the other kids started liking me because they wanted to read the books."

When Millender attended Indiana State, library science was "so new they didn't have a textbook," she said. "They would take books home and read (but) I got very good instruction in library science ... ISU was marvelous - way ahead of its time. I enjoyed going to school and I enjoyed reading because I knew I was going to be prepared to get in the work world."

She went on to serve as a librarian in several locations, including the Library of Congress - her husband was a printer at the Washington Post - before moving to Gary in 1960 where she worked as librarian at Pulaski School until her retirement in 1978 - retirement from full-time employment, that is.While a school librarian, she served as a trustee of the Gary Public Library, three terms on the Gary City council, three terms on the school board, a Lutheran missionary for 30 years and founder and chief executive officer of the Gary Historical and Cultural Society. She still serves as Gary's official historian and is overseeing plans to revitalize and expand the Steel City's first building as a national historic landmark.

A self-described "bookworm" like her mother, Naomi Millender said her social activities while at Indiana State College University revolved around the black student union or efforts with three other students to start an undergraduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a black sorority.

"The dean did not want us to start an undergraduate chapter," she said. "The regional director came down from Chicago and we were told she ... was very forceful. The dean of women realized she'd made a big error. AKA was a very strong organization."

After graduation from Indiana State, Naomi wrote for the Gary Crusader newspaper - serving as editor of the African-American publication was yet another of her mom's jobs - then served as a consultant with the National Youth Corp in Gary. After completing a master's degree from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, she served as an educational consultant in cultural linguistics for schools in Chicago, Kansas, California and Dayton, Ohio.

While in college, it was Naomi's turn to be a pioneer, launching a tutoring program for African-American students in Terre Haute and serving as first-chair cellist for the ISU Symphony Orchestra, having attended the prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore at the age of 13. She is the founding member and principal cellist and manager of the Gary Symphony Orchestra and director of Gary Historical and Cultural Society programs.

Photo: - The Hood/Millender family of Terre Haute and Gary was recognized with the 2014 Indiana State University Alumni Association Legacy Award during halftime of the Sycamores' Family Day football game with Liberty University Sept. 27, 2014. On hand were (left to right) Rex Kendall, ISU Alumni Association director, university President Dan Bradley, Dharathula "Dolly" Hood Millender, Naomi Millender and Cheri Bradley, Indiana State's first lady. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

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