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Indiana University, community partners celebrate Civil Rights Heritage Center purchase

Feb 26, 2020

Last night leaders from Indiana University and the South Bend community gathered to mark the University’s purchase of the Engman Natatorium as the permanent home of the IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center.

We are thrilled to now count this historic property among the University’s permanent facilities, said Dr. Susan Elrod, Chancellor of Indiana University South Bend. The Center is a nexus for important academic work and deep engagement with the entire community on civil rights and social justice issues; this purchase allows us to expand that work.”

The Center occupies the site of the former Engman Natatorium, one of the last remaining symbols of the civil rights struggle in South Bend. In a unique partnership between the City of South Bend, the South Bend Heritage Foundation, IU South Bend, and local benefactors, the facility was renovated and re-opened in May of 2010 as an active learning center exploring the civil rights struggles of the past so people can take action in the present and build a better future. Last night’s event also served as an opportunity to welcome the return of Dr. Darryl Heller as director of the Center and assistant professor in Women’s and Gender Studies.

During our Bicentennial Year, it is particularly fitting to underscore the fact that the enduring success of a great university, especially a great public institution like Indiana University, is predicated in large part on its commitment to embracing diversity in the broadest sense and its commitment to building a community where respect for the fundamental rights and dignity of all others is one of our cardinal values, said Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie at the event. In order to ensure that Indiana University is and remains such a community, it is vitally important that we have programs and institutions that encourage us to reflect upon our past, embolden us to act when these ideals are under threat, and inspire us to work to ensure that our communities continue to embrace these values.

Indiana University and the South Bend community gathered at the Civil Rights Heritage Center IU South Bend had been leasing the facility since it was renovated and the University exercised the purchase option included in the lease agreement with the South Bend Heritage Foundation. The purchase of the Natatorium was completed last month.

At the event Alfred Guillaume, retired Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at IU South Bend, and his wife Melanie Smith-Guillaume received a Bicentennial Medal from President McRobbie. Dr. Guillaume was one of the catalysts behind the establishment of the Civil Rights Heritage Center and together he and Ms. Smith-Guillaume are deeply involved in the South Bend community. These Medals, part of the University’s 200th anniversary celebration, are awarded to organizations and individuals who, through their personal, professional, artistic, or philanthropic efforts, have broadened the reach of Indiana University around the state, nation, and world.

For more information contact Paige Risser, Director of Communications and Marketing at IU South Bend at (269) 783-6199.

Learn more about the Civil Rights Heritage Center at

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