Carl Ziegler was responsible for hundreds of students at the Collins Living-Learning Center, but former students said he always made time for every one of them.
Friends and former students remember Ziegler as a caring and thoughtful mentor who took pleasure in teaching and helping his students succeed.
Ziegler died April 19 in Bloomington at the age of 80. He joined IU in 1966 as an assistant professor in Germanic studies and comparative literature, according to an obituary he wrote for himself, and served as director of Collins LLC from 1990 to 2004, according to the LLC’s website. He was a recipient of the Mary Burgan Distinguished Service Award and the IU Bicentennial Medal.
IU class of 1984 alumna Laurie Ritchie said Ziegler’s enthusiasm for the German language and culture convinced her to take German courses in each of her four undergraduate years.
“I don't know that I would have done that if I hadn't, if not for his enthusiasm,” she said.
Director of Residential Life Sara Ivey Lucas said she had lived in Collins when Ziegler was director and then worked there as a manager until 2004, when he retired. She said Collins was the only LLC at IU when Ziegler became its director, but its success showed other IU departments the value of engaging with first-year students and encouraged them to found their own living-learning programs.
Lucas said Ziegler will be missed for his legacy of compassionate and engaged leadership and for his sincere interest in enriching students’ IU experience to the fullest extent.
“I think the professional lesson that Carl taught is that the work that you do as university administrators should be about empowering students and helping them find their voice,” she said.
Mark Helmsing, assistant professor of education, history and folklore at George Mason University, is an IU class of 2004 alumnus and lived in Collins for four years. He said Ziegler championed diversity and always wanted to bring in students who might not feel they had a place elsewhere on campus. He said on Sept. 11, 2001, Ziegler stayed at Collins all night consoling students while warning against anti-Muslim violence.
“Some people from Indiana were saying that Bloomington might be a place that would harbor potential terrorists,” he said. “And Carl was very concerned to make sure that international students at Collins were feeling safe and were feeling supported, and not open to that kind of abuse and rhetoric.”
Class of 2004 alumna Kate Barrows said she remembered going to Ziegler’s course in the building about 1960s American literature.
“I remember going downstairs in my pajamas for that class — and that being okay,” she said. “I remember just wanting to listen to him and hear his perspective.”
Barrows said Ziegler was always around for students. She said when she told Ziegler she had been failing remedial math in her freshman year, he told her he knew she was a hard worker and made her an appointment to see if she had a learning disability.
“He didn't even say anything to me, but the next time I went in, I found out he'd made me an appointment,” she said. “And he actually took me. We walked there together.”
Barrows was diagnosed with dyscalculia, a learning difficulty affecting the ability to do basic arithmetic, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. She said the diagnosis was life changing because math had been a major source of embarrassment for her.
“He believed in me so much, and took his time to do that for me,” she said. “I think he would have just done it for anyone.”
Rahsaan Bartet, Ziegler’s godson and class of 2005 alumnus, said Ziegler always took the time to care for his students. He said Ziegler hand wrote letters to every incoming Collins student and would invite students to his home for his famous brownies.
Bartet said during a road trip, a man experiencing homelessness in St. Louis asked Ziegler for a cup of coffee for him and his wife, and Ziegler invited them for dinner at a local restaurant.
“He just wanted to help people figure out their space and time in life,” he said. “And whatever he could do to help, he would do that, no matter who you were.”
Class of 2002 alumnus Jeramy Foltz lived at Collins for four years. He said in his freshman year, Foltz bought a Santa Claus outfit to wear at the LLC’s annual Dickens Dinner, an homage to former President Herman B Wells’ tradition of donning a Santa suit around Christmas. Foltz said he told Ziegler about his idea and explained he didn’t want to spoil the surprise by asking the Collins arts council for money for candy canes, and Ziegler immediately appreciated the idea.
“He goes, ‘You’re right,’ and he pulled out $20 and said, ‘Don’t spend your money on candy canes,’” Foltz said.
Foltz said Ziegler was caring and thoughtful, personalities that make Ziegler a man who influences many people’s lives.
“Nothing makes him happier than being the conduit by which others succeed,” he said. “He’s probably the closest person I’ve ever met to an in-person Mr. Rogers, or a Bob Ross.”
A memorial service will take place from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesday at Allen Funeral Home and Crematory at 4155 S. Old State Road. 37, Bloomington, and will be streamed live on YouTube, according to the funeral home’s website. Visitation will follow from noon until 2 p.m. at the funeral home.