Charles Cashdollar takes notes while reviewing copies of the Normal Herald, the alumni bulletin from 1895 to 1927, in the IUP Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives area

Charles Cashdollar didn't raise his hand to volunteer when it came time for someone to write a new book on IUP's history.

Cover art for "The IUP Story: From Normal School to University," by Charles Cashdollar, featuring Sutton Hall, fall leaves, and individual photos of students, faculty members, and historical figures

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IUP Libraries: Special Collections and University Archives

He was “volunteered” by others.

The result? After more than a decade of work, Cashdollar's The IUP Story: Indiana University of Pennsylvania, from Normal School to University will be published by the Foundation for IUP later this summer. It's the first book chronicling the institution's history since Dale Landon and Ron Juliette authored Indiana University of Pennsylvania: Our Homage and Our Love in 1991.

The back story to The IUP Story features former IUP President Tony Atwater, along with the subject of this story, a certain professor emeritus of history in the early years of retirement. A retirement soon to be consumed by one of the largest writing projects he'd ever undertaken.

“Tony Atwater thought they needed an updated history, because it had been quite a while,” Cashdollar said. “I did a little counting up, and it's been 30 years since the Landon and Juliette history. A lot has changed since then. So Atwater approached the History Department, trying to get some history faculty to take released time and work on the book. But none of them were particularly interested, and they thought it would be a good retirement project for me.”

Cashdollar seemed an ideal candidate, given his long association with the university. A 1965 graduate of IUP, he earned his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Pennsylvania before returning to campus in the fall of 1969 as a member of the History Department faculty. He was honored with a Distinguished Faculty Award for research in 1989, a Distinguished Faculty Award for service in 1993, and a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009. Cashdollar has written three previous books and dozens of articles, reviews, and book chapters. He retired in 2005.

But if Cashdollar believed he would kick back and relax once freed from the shackles of a full-time schedule, he was sorely mistaken. Instead of a leisurely retirement, Cashdollar spent endless hours digging through dusty boxes in the university's archives, poring over documents and records and photos, and writing about significant figures and pivotal moments from the university's past.

Cashdollar said he started on the project in 2008 or 2009, and it was put on hold after Atwater left. “So there are a couple of years in there where I didn't do very much. In fact, I went on to other things. And then when President [Michael] Driscoll came, we got back on track again.”

In writing about the events and individuals that have shaped the university, Cashdollar found two themes have predominated throughout IUP's history.

“We think we're going through a bad time right now, . . . but this isn't the first time that we've encountered difficulties.”

“One is, from the very beginning, a consistent commitment to excellence,” he said. “That's right there in the statements that the founding trustees made—the high aspirations, the commitment to excellence. And then the second theme that runs through there is a kind of persistence in overcoming obstacles. We think we're going through a bad time right now—and in some ways we are—but this isn't the first time that we've encountered difficulties. The place almost went bankrupt within the first 10, 15 years. And then there were problems again, great financial problems, any number of times going forward. So they persisted in overcoming obstacles.”

The 8¼-by-10¾-inch hardcover book features more than 400 pages and more than 400 photographs. Cashdollar writes about the school's founding in 1875, when John Sutton Hall was the lone campus building; the school's transition from Normal School to four-year teachers college in 1927; the World War II years, when few male students were left on campus; the turbulent 1960s, when antiwar protests were commonplace; and, most recently, the challenges of operating in the midst of a global pandemic.

“I've tried to describe what it was like to be a student here in the late 19th century and how that experience changed.”

“This is more than a story of presidents and administrations and budgets and growth and relations with the commonwealth,” Cashdollar said. “That's all there, as are all the buildings. But I've tried to describe what it was like to be a student here in the late 19th century and how that experience changed. This includes what classes and teaching methods were like, but also residential life, social regulations, and cocurricular aspects such as athletics, fraternities and sororities, clubs, and musical and dramatic performances. There is information about the changing roles of women and about our efforts to increase diversity and inclusion. It also has information about what alumni did after they left here.”

Portrait of Jane Leonard from 1900The book is divided into 15 chapters, 14 arranged chronologically. The exception—simply titled “Aunt Jane”—pays tribute to beloved educator and administrator Jane Leonard, a towering figure in the Normal School era. That Cashdollar devoted an entire chapter to Leonard indicates how critical he believes her contributions were to IUP's success and, in fact, to its very survival.

“Especially because going through the late 19th century we had a lot of very short presidencies and a lot of turmoil there at the top,” Cashdollar said. “She was consistent in holding things together for much of that first 50 years.”

In May, the IUP Council of Trustees jointly recognized Leonard, Cashdollar, and Cashdollar's wife, Donna, for their contributions to the institution by naming the College of Humanities and Social Sciences building, open since 2016, Jane E. Leonard Hall. It is the third building to bear her name. A fire destroyed the first in 1952, and IUP razed its replacement in 2018 to make way for John J. and Char Kopchick Hall, a new science complex.

Charles and Donna Cashdollar standing behind a framed resolutionJust as Leonard wasn't alone in keeping IUP afloat through troubling times, Cashdollar's book project was hardly a solo enterprise. For example, Donna Cashdollar contributed as a graphic designer and provided invaluable advice. Two others also helped bring The IUP Story to fruition.

“One is Harrison Wick, the university archivist,” Cashdollar said. “He did a lot of the photo searching and scanning of those photos, not to mention the fact that he just provided good service when I camped out over there. We went through boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff. And the other is Karen Gresh ['67, former IUP Magazine editor], who provided copyediting. Those are both significant contributions of time.”

Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Foundation for IUP to promote and support the university's educational purposes. To reserve a copy, write to the Foundation for IUP, Sutton Hall G1, 1011 South Drive, Indiana, PA 15705-1046, or complete the online order form.

Cashdollar hopes readers enjoy the finished product as much as he did creating it.

“I've been working on this thing for 10, 12 years,” Cashdollar said. “I have to say it was not only satisfying, but also a lot of fun. And it's given me an even deeper appreciation for IUP and those who built and sustained it.”