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Golden Book valuable tool for preserving history of IU’s veterans

Three people view the Golden Book, IU's record of students, staff and faculty who have served in ... Three people view the Golden Book, IU’s record of students, staff and faculty who have served in the military. Photo courtesy of John Summerlot. The upcoming Memorial Day holiday honors the courageous men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in the armed forces, and Indiana University offers a meaningful way to commemorate its veterans.

The Golden Book is a longstanding military history project that documents the service of students, staff, faculty and alumni. It is housed within a glass case at the Indiana Memorial Union’s Memorial Room, and a digital version is available for public access.

Connecting individuals with their past, the Golden Book provides names and details of IU’s veterans and fosters a deeper understanding of history. One of its most important contributions is helping people with their research, whether it involves personal genealogy, IU history or other projects, said John Summerlot, a historian for the Golden Book.

To ensure that IU maintains accurate records of its veterans, individuals can submit through the online portal relevant information about alumni, staff, faculty and current students who have served in the armed forces.

Adding and updating information to the Golden Book about IU’s veterans is important to telling a more complete story of the university, Summerlot said.

“Originally, women were less likely to be included, and biographical information was more likely to be included on prominent people,” he said. “Therefore, the stories in the book are crucial.”

The Golden Book began as a list published by the Indiana Daily Student during the Spanish-American War to keep track of IU alumni and former students serving in the military, Summerlot said. This initial list evolved into a roster of IU alumni and former students who served in the Civil War, managed by the Office of the Registrar and Indiana University Alumni Association.

In the late 1920s, IU President William Lowe Bryan conceived the idea of compiling the list into a book, which subsequently became a central focus of Memorial Day events.

The university continued to add names to the Golden Book, but Summerlot said the process lacked standardization and underwent various experimental approaches. One method involved publishing the list and waiting for individuals to reach out and inquire about why they were not included.

After World War I, the IU Alumni Association distributed forms to all known alumni, aiming to document their war service for the university. Following World War II, IU collaborated with other universities to scour the records of the U.S Department of War and Department of the Navy to compile lists of enlisted members with a college education. These lists were then used to add names to the Golden Book, Summerlot said.

Nisha Lalria is an intern in the Office of the Vice President of Communications and Marketing.