Tim Crumrin and Dolly Millender may have caught the history bug from family members, but Indiana State University helped them develop their passion.
The Indiana Historical Society has honored Crumrin, ’87, GR ’89, with its 2014 Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award and Millender, ’41, with the 2014 Hubert Hawkins History Award, which honors a local historian for distinguished service.
“I became a historian because of my grandparents. They were great storytellers,” said Crumrin. As a fourth-grader, he wrote a five-page paper about the assassination of President Kennedy and later went on to serve as historian at Conner Prairie, an interactive history park outside Indianapolis, for 25 years.
“ISU was one of the cornerstones of my life. I appreciate the education; I appreciated the relationship, he said. “I had very fine professors at ISU. There was no such thing as an adjunct in the history department when I was there. You got the views and experience of full professors who had been immersed in their topics for 25 to 30 years.”
Crumrin lists faculty members Don Layton, Herb Rissler, Quentin Bone and Gale Christianson among his greatest influences while he completed a bachelor’s degree in European history and a master’s degree in American history.
“It was a very collegial atmosphere. Even as an undergraduate, they recognized my passion and were eager to help me,” he said.
He attributes his recognition by the Historical Society to his decision to begin telling the story of Native Americans at Conner Prairie and to his status as a pioneer in the use of technology in history as creator and manager of the museum’s website and project director for its distance learning program that brought Indiana history to school children around the state.
It was “kind of ridiculous” not to tell the Native American story, Crumrin said, because William Conner lived among the Delaware tribe for 40 years and six of his children were half Delaware.
Crumrin is president of Historiker Consulting Group and has written or edited more than 35 scholarly publications and made numerous presentations at conferences sponsored by the Organization of American Historians and the Indiana Historical Society, among others. In addition to his latest recognition and two national awards of merit from the American Association of State and Local History, he received a national Telly award as writer and director of the PBS documentary “Harvesting the Past.”
He is working on a book about the history of West Terre Haute, where his family has lived for more than 160 years.
Millender’s mother was a teacher who graduated from Fisk University and instilled a love of history in her children.
“While (at Fisk), they were told to share the history of their people with the students with whom they would come in contact,” Millender said. “My mother began to share stories with her students and then with her own children. The more she shared, the more I enjoyed the history stories, and history of the past became a passion.”
Millender began to write down stories that her mother told her and has continued the practice throughout her 94 years. In 1976, she founded the Gary Historical and Cultural Society and is the author of six books, two of them about the history of Gary, with a third Gary history book soon to be published by Arcadia Press. Mayor Rudy Clay officially proclaimed her as Gary’s city historian in 2010.
She earned an English, music and library science degree at Indiana State and eventually fulfilled her dream of serving as a school librarian at Gary’s Pulaski Junior High School.
“In those days, library science was not a field open to African-Americans,” she said of her time at Indiana State. “I had always wanted to be a librarian after I had seen an African-American library person at our elementary school in Terre Haute.
”Indiana State was a fabulous school, and it still is,” she said. “Everything that I learned there made me feel how important it is to be a teacher-librarian. That was what we were called back then.”
These days, Millender is preparing to pass the torch of history to younger family members.
“I don’t have the full use of my legs now, so I’m just going to be using my brain to organize the next generation, my grandchildren and beyond,” she said. “I intend to pass on whatever I have learned, and I have saved a lot. Fortunately, my children and grandchildren are very interested in history. I’m saving my books and articles for them, and they are all excited about continuing to save history.”