IU historian explains Bicentennial festivities


University Historian James Capshew shows an early 1900s-era advertisement for IU on Feb. 1 in his office at Herman B Wells Library. Colin Kulpa

IU’s 200-year anniversary is fast approaching. For the university, it symbolizes the various accomplishments and contributions from alumni around the world but also addresses points in time where it faltered as an institution. 

The Bicentennial programming in 2020 serves not only to commemorate the past, but to evaluate the present so a better future can be created as IU enters its third century. 

“What’s interesting about a university is that it’s designed to go on without all the people who have been contributing to it,” IU historian James Capshew said. “It’s something that’s beyond your lifetime and my lifetime, hopefully.” 

The IU Office of the Bicentennial encourages students to attend engaging marquee events that are functions of celebration but also catalysts of education and learning. 

Capshew said the more you know, the more you appreciate and the more you’re invested. Students are here for four years to develop experiences that bind them to the institution, alongside receiving higher education. 

Knowledge becomes part of that attachment because the more an individual knows about a place, the more they can appreciate it and bask in everything it has to offer. 

“It’s part of growing up, it’s part of self-knowledge, it’s part of being professional in whatever field you’re in,” he said. “People realize that this is pretty important.”

These same students have the opportunity – during IU’s bicentennial year in 2020 – to dedicate themselves to their university by learning its history, both rich and sour. 

The Bicentennial encompasses all of IU's history and brings to light that every student has the opportunity to make a change in the world by celebrating the alumni who have already done so.

Each year, IU receives student applications from all over the world. By allowing those who have experienced the university to network with younger generations, the global outreach, knowledge and understanding of IU’s history increases. 

Lux et Veritas – meaning Light and Truth – is the IU motto. The Bicentennial anniversary that will be celebrated next year is a symbol of the university. Transitively, it represents the motto itself.

“It’s this anniversary that allows us to pause and to think about how the past is related to the present and how that’s going to affect our future,” Capshew said. 

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