Growing up the youngest of eight children, Dolly (Hood) Millender, ’41, remembers her parents’ constant preaching of the importance of education. The daughter of an entrepreneur father and civil rights activist mother, Millender came to Indiana State University with aspirations of becoming a librarian.
To the Hood family, going to college was an expectation. Their Sycamore dendrochronology-ish legacy began in the early 1900s. Their inspiring tale of a three-generation Indiana State family that spans all four institutional name changes earned the Hoods the 2014 Legacy Award. This award, presented by the Indiana State Alumni Association, recognizes multi-generational Indiana State families.
The Hood family heritage began with Millender’s aunts, Jessie Hood and Josephine Hood. The first women in their family to attend Indiana State Normal School, the sisters were only two of a few dozen African-American students at the institution during this time. Undeterred, they earned education degrees in pursuit of teaching careers.
Inspired by their aunts’ accomplishments and parents’ persistence, the second generation of the Hood family began their Indiana State Teachers College journey. Ruth (Hood) Battle, ’32, was the first in the family to attend the institution. A talented pianist, she won a contest and earned a $1,000 scholarship that covered all four years of tuition at the institution. She went on to a 35-year career as an English teacher at Gary Roosevelt High School in Gary, Ind. In her retirement, Ruth served as the president of the Indiana Retired Teachers Association.
Orestes Hood, ’37, was the first and only brother of the Hood family to earn an Indiana State degree. As a student, he was responsible for desegregating the university’s dining facility by orchestrating a “one-man sit-in” in the lunch room. The progressive event was successful and granted African-American students access to the same dining facility as white students.
Millender, who was attending Indiana State at the same time as Orestes, clearly remembers this day.
“I was too scared to sit down for lunch, but my brother — he didn’t care. He wanted to say that he sat down at lunch,” Millender said.
After graduating, Orestes became a well-known psychologist in California.
Like Ruth, Gladys (Hood) Johnson, ’42, attended Indiana State and earned her degree in education. Gladys served as the first African-American female principal in the Gary, Ind., school district.
Millender was the last of her eight siblings to attend Indiana State. She studied English, music appreciation and library science was involved with the student council. After graduating, she became a librarian and worked at several school libraries, as well as the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In addition, Millender authored five children’s books, including biographies of Crispus Attucks, Louis Armstrong and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Millender’s daughter, Naomi Millender, ’67, followed in her footsteps by becoming a third generation Hood family member to attend Indiana State. As a Sycamore, Naomi was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was one of four students who helped to start the Alpha Kappa Alpha chapter at Indiana State. Earning a bachelor’s degree in Radio/TV/Film, Naomi went on to become a successful educational consultant and later the director of the Follow Through Educational Projects.
“Indiana State was a fabulous education institution in those days, and that’s the reason it’s that way now – because it started that way,” Millender said.