Dr. Donald Pitzer: Soaring into “New Harmony”

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Professor Emeritus, Dr. Donald Pitzer, received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Southern Indiana on April 29th, 2016.  Some would ask, why is this important? He is another gentleman receiving an honorary degree; however, Dr. Pitzer is not just another gentleman. He has an extensive history with the University of Southern Indiana. He taught history at USI from 1967 to 2007.


April 29th, 2016: USI President, Dr. Linda Bennett (left) giving Dr. Donald Pitzer (left) his honorary degree. [Photo Credit: Tonya Pitzer]

Dr. Pitzer’s academic career began at Wittenberg University.  He graduated in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in humanities.  He continued his education by receiving his master’s degree in 1962 and doctoral degree in 1966 in history from Ohio State University.  Dr. Pitzer joined USI, then known as Indiana State University Evansville (ISUE) at the Centennial School in 1967.  He became the History Department’s first chair in 1976 until 1998. While teaching, Dr. Pitzer was active in the bowling club, chess clubs, and supported the USI basketball teams.  During his tenure, he taught a variety of history courses from basic American History to Millennialism and Communal Studies from 1967 to 2007.


Dr. Donald Pitzer (center) at the groundbreaking ceremony of the future site of Indiana State University-Evansville, now as USI, in June 1967. [Photo Credits: University Archives and Special Collections]

Communal studies is the investigation of intentional communities around the world. Dr. Pitzer researched about the Harmonist and Owenite communities in New Harmony, Indiana for forty years. He became known as an expert in communal history and his theory of “developmental communalism”.  He’s traveled across the United States and overseas visiting countless religious and secular groups.  He was one of the original founders of the Communal Studies Association in 1975 and served as the first president until 1993.  Under his direction the Center for Communal Studies opened and he was director until his retirement in 2007.  Dr. Pitzer has left as everlasting legacy through his hard work and dedication on the University of Southern Indiana.

Today, the Communal Studies (CS) collection in the University Archives and Special Collection, in cooperation with the Center for Communal Studies, focuses on modern communes and cooperative living. Dr. Pitzer is still contributing to the collections as well as writing and presenting on communal topics. He helped the shape the future of education in Evansville and work in communal studies will stand the test of time.


“Unofficial” naming of the University Archives and Special Collection’s Communal Reading Room on April 29th, 2016. [Photo Credits: James Wethington]

Shelby Gillam: Student Assistant Highlight

*Post written by Shelby Gillam, student assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.


Shelby Gillam during our 2016 March Madness Promo

It is far too often that people use the term “library” as a blanket term for any place where one rents their books for free. Libraries actually exist in varieties, and despite what people may think, they are quite different from each other. This is especially true in the distinction between public and academic libraries. They share many similarities such as the opportunity for individuals to rent books, movies, and access to the Internet. These two forms of library have qualities that separates them from each other.

I have had a unique opportunity with my four years of working experience. I have had the experience of working at both a public and an academic library. For a few months, I was actually working at both at the same time. During this time, I was shocked by how different the two libraries were from each other. There are obvious differences: Rice Library is far bigger than almost all of the local libraries and it has more floors. The public library where I previously worked did not have multiple floors and it did not have an archives section like USI. Because of its academic nature, Rice Library has more resources to give students the best experience as possible while conducting research. Contrastingly, public libraries are usually more entertainment-oriented. Although the public libraries do not contain as many resources, the amount of leisure materials such as DVD’s, fiction books, and CD’s far outnumbers those of the academic library.

The work environment in each library is unique. Work in a public library is aimed towards developing their employees’ customer service skills. Schedules are strictly adhered to with no alterations allowed. This gives students experience with the working world which they will soon encounter upon their graduation. The emphasis at the public library is on development of skills that will benefit the patrons. Employees are rigorously evaluated by qualities such as promptness, politeness, knowledge of databases, and work-ethic. The public library’s strong points lie in the upholding of quality customer service.

The academic library work environment places value in the components of positive interactions between information seekers and information providers; however, the emphasis is on learning. Issues such as promptness and work-ethic are important to the academic library, but education takes priority. Academic libraries value knowledge above all other things. As a student assistant at Rice Library, I have learned copious amounts on varying topics. This enhances my experience as an employee, but it enhances the experience of any person who comes to the academic library in search of information. Academic libraries genuinely enjoy providing knowledge, and attaining their own knowledge through the assistance of patrons. It is because of this that both the patron and the employee have equally enjoyable experiences at the academic library.