IU East Archives Bicentennial Oral History Project Update: The Lasting Impact of Veramallay, Bodiker, and Weller

IU East Archives Bicentennial Oral History Project Update: The Lasting Impact of Veramallay, Bodiker, and Weller

The IU Bicentennial is a year-long celebration, but we have been working on collecting stories for the Bicentennial Oral History Project since Fall 2016 and will continue to document the IU East experiences of alumni, faculty and staff. This Fall semester we interviewed three members of the IU East community who have contributed greatly by serving on the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, fundraising for campus and raising scholarship funds for students. They are Professor Emeritus of Economics Ashton Veramallay, former Indiana State Representative and honorary IU East Alumni Dick Bodiker, and lifelong IU Alumni member and early supporter of IU East, Margie Weller. Ashton Veramallay and Dick Bodiker both are Chancellor Medallion recipients and Margie Weller was awarded an IU Bicentennial Medal.

 Ashton Veramallay, Ph.D.

Figure 1 Veramally in his office

Ashton Veramallay, Professor Emeritus, joined IU East in 1977.  Professor Veramallay was an integral part of the School of Business and Economics for 27 years at IU East.  He served as an expert in local and worldwide economics, was a member of several community organizations, a consultant, public speaker, and published author.  In 1978, he established the Center for Economic Education, a teaching, research and development resource center. Under his direction, the Center received the 2002 Peter V. Harrington University Center Award for Excellence by the Indiana Council for Economic Education.

During his interview, Professor Veramallay admitted that when he first interviewed at IU East, he was “wondering if [he came to] the right place.” Coming from attending and working at larger universities, he was baffled by the one building campus, but he was drawn to the beauty of the campus, surrounded by trees which reminded him of his home country of Guyana. He also liked the “pioneering spirit” of the campus. When he started in the fall of 1977, there were less than 1,000 students and he was the only foreign professor at that time.

Fun facts: His first task leading the Center for Economic Education was “to teach the school teachers in Batesville, IN, so that meant [he] had to leave home at 5:30 am to go there for an 8 o’clock meeting. [He] did that for three weeks…and that is how we established IU East’s presence in Batesville and [after that] in Connersville.”

Professor Veramallay eventually established summer workshops where he would teach and support primary education teachers in economic education, splitting the sessions so he’d teach at the IU East Campus for two or three weeks and then “in the Connersville area [so as] to include teachers from Southeast Indiana” for a few weeks. He estimates that he “must have taught over 1,200 teachers in Southeastern Indiana, impacting over 100,000 students.”

The IU East Center for Economic Education also “has the distinct honor of being the only one in the state of Indiana to first have an overseas class at the University of Kent in Canterbury [England].” 

Figure 2 Veramallay attending the Retired Faculty Breakfast 2017

Richard ‘Dick’ Bodiker

Figure 3 Right to left: Bodiker, standing with Art Vivian, Chancellor Emeritus Charlie Nelms, and Paul Lingle

Dick Bodiker worked and lived locally in Richmond before getting into politics, serving as a Representative for our district from 1986-2002. Before becoming a Representative, who would support IU East’s growth from a one building campus to four during his tenure, he also served on the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors.

Dick Bodiker, a first generation college student, may have started his education at Ball State, but in the late 60’s he was persuaded by Dr. Fredrick Grohsmeyer, the director of the Eastern Indiana Center at the time, to take post-secondary classes at the Eastern Indiana Center (IU East’s previous incarnation) located at Earlham College. Dr. Grohsmeyer, who would become IU East’s first director in 1971, “was trying to get more local workers” and businessmen to invest in as much higher education “as they could absorb.”

Bodiker, who worked as a tradesman with Dana Corporation, was always interested in politics and, with experience in serving in every local officer role with the UAW (labor union representing workers in auto, aircraft, and agricultural implement manufacturing), “[he] decided he wanted to be in city government.” In 1983, he ran against thirteen others, “and after a long, hard campaign,” won one of three spots in the Richmond City Council. In 1986, he received the opportunity to run for State Legislature and Bodiker decided that he’d “try that” and eventually won by a “two vote landslide.” He’d spend the next 16 years working as a State Representative.

Bodiker was always a champion for higher education in Richmond, IN area. When he was on the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, before and after his tenure as a State Representative, he believed their “main duty was to help sell to the community the idea of education…for nontraditional students…to give those people, who might not have the opportunity otherwise, to be able to [attend] locally.”  One of the things he’s most proud of is that when IU East first started, “there was one bachelor’s degree in General Studies and very few associate degrees,” and that built up to a point where there are now over 25 bachelor degrees, master degrees, and distance education.

He also championed the physical expansion of the campus, which was a high priority for him, as “we had people who were parking lot professors…people who had to meet in their cars with students,” because there weren’t enough office spaces. As State Representative, he helped “with the effort of a lot of people” to get funding for the additional buildings on the IU East Campus. “It’s not an easy effort, it has to be a joint effort.”

Fun Facts: When he was traveling home from Centerville one “warm” evening with his car windows down, a pickup truck passed him and the truck driver threw a cigarette butt out. “Well, with the way the wind was,” it blew into his car and hit him near his neck.  He brushed it off and pulled over to make sure it was out and not in the backseat. His learned he wasn’t the only one this has happened to and, besides being a fire hazard, his first thought was if (he) was a parent with a child in the backseat of a car, he’d be worried about that child being hurt and the high possibility of a wreck. So, in 2002, he “got a law passed that said you can’t throw a lighted object out the window of a moving vehicle.”

Figure 4 Bodiker receiving his honorary degree in 2016

Margie Weller

Figure 5 Margie (left) with husband Bob and Joanna Mikesell

Margie Weller and her husband Bob Weller were both lifelong IU Alumni members and were very active in various roles with the IU Alumni Club of Wayne County, raising money for the establishment of the IU East Campus and for scholarships, and in participating on the Board of Advisors (Bob) and the Executive Committee for the IU Alumni Association (Margie).

Margie Weller attended IU with her husband, alumni Bob Weller, after WWII, living in one of IU’s infamous trailer towns that was located in the parking lot of the IU stadium. Due to the influx of servicemen entering higher education after the war, IU needed housing to accommodate all their new students and their families, so they purchased U.S. military barracks left over from the war.

Margie didn’t finish her education at IU, choosing to work in order to support her husband who attended full time, but in 1950 her husband Bob received his degree in accounting from the School of Business and got a job in downtown Indianapolis with George S. Olive & Co. In 1961, Bob was persuaded to move to Richmond, Indiana as there was “a lot of clients there…twenty-one millionaires at the time and very successful.” Bob Weller also taught an accounting class through the IU School of Business at the Eastern Indiana Center at Earlham College and also served on the IU Board of Advisors for 30 years.

The Wellers were “big fans of Indiana University” and one of the first big dinners they attended in Richmond was an IU Alumni Club of Wayne County dinner at the Forest Hills Country Club. “There was only about twelve people there and [she] was just shocked; with a city as big as Richmond, that there wouldn’t have been more people.” The Wellers knew that there were more alumni in the area, especially doctors, dentists, optometrists, and attorneys. So, the IU Alumni Office gave Margie a list of alumni in the area and she got to work updating the list with current addresses and phone numbers. She began reaching out to people to talk about IU and to convince them to start attending alumni events. Membership “went zooming, it went beautifully.” 

Margie and Bob were both active in helping to establish IU East as a regional campus, alongside other community members like Danny Danielson, Bob O’Malley, Art Vivian, and John Valentine. “We had a good, strong alumni group and all of it was to establish a campus here and to raise scholarship.” As an accountant, Bob “had many, many wealthy clients and he persuaded the IU East Campus to [them] and asked them to give large gifts to IU and he raised a lot of money,” including the Mikesell’s (Joanna Mikesell pictured top with the Wellers).

Fun facts: In the late 1980’s, Margie was elected to the Executive Committee of the IU Alumni Association. During one of the “400 Club [fundraising] Receptions” she chaired, Governor Evan Bayh was attending and IU East Chancellor Charlie Nelms asked her to introduce him to those around the room. She was given Lady Di roses from Hill’s Roses, from donor Wanda Hayes, to present to him as a gift for his wife, Susan. Susan Bayh later wrote her a “lovely” thank you letter.

When Margie and her husband were still attending IU, Margie worked for G.B. Woodward Insurance Company. Through her work, she was able to attend the dedication of the IU Auditorium. At the event, she got to meet Hoagy Carmichael, who was on the program to perform. “He was just delightful.” The event was supported by the Tarzians, owners of WTTV and Hoagy, “was a good boy…Mrs. Tarzian was devout Christian, so he had his alcohol in a coffee cup on top of the piano. He played a wonderful concert and she never knew!” 

The Wellers have three children, all proud IU alumni.

Figure 6 Margie holding her 400 Club pin and a photo of her presenting roses to former Indiana Governor Evan Bayh, 1989-1997. Mementos of her time fundraising for IU East.

These oral history interviews and many others will soon be available online. If you’re interested in listening to these stories in full, please contact Archivist Beth South for access at eabrockm@iue.edu. You can also contact Beth with any questions about the Bicentennial Oral History Project. If you are an alumni, retired faculty, or staff and are interested in sharing your story, please fill out the following form at https://200.iu.edu/signature-projects/oral-history/form.html.

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