Humanities & Cultural
Dr. E. DeWitt Baker
Dr. E. DeWitt Baker was the president of Huntington College from 1965 to 1981, bringing to the position the sensibilities and dedication of the missionary he had been for 16 years. Enrollment grew steadily in the Baker years. A residence hall, the Huntington Union Building were built, the Merillat Physical Education Complex was begun and Lake Sno-Tip was completed during his term as president. Baker was revered in the African nation of Sierra Leone, where he had served as a missionary. He was the driving force behind the establishment of a number of United Brethren in Christ mission schools there, including two high schools that brought literacy and hope for a better life to thousands. After he returned to Huntington, Dr. Baker used his contacts in Sierra Leone to gain a foothold in that country for a polio-eradication initiative that had been started in the late 1970s by Rotary International.
Frank Sumner Bash
The man who would write the definitive history of early Huntington County got his start as the area’s original music man. Born in 1859 in Roanoke, Frank Sumner Bash was a farmer and had a piano and organ business. He was a singer and choirmaster, and taught and promoted music throughout the county. He headed many musical societies and performed across the country. Bash entered the world of journalism, eventually became editor of the Daily and Weekly Herald, where he remained for 17 years. In 1914, he compiled a book, “The History of Huntington County,” a two-volume, 850-page tome written with the help of U.S. Lesh, Monroe Wiley and Frank A. Miner. Bash continued to write about the history of Huntington County, interviewing county residents for a series of newspaper columns from 1922 to 1931. Many of the subjects were the county’s oldest residents who recalled their memories of the earliest days of Huntington County.
Dr. Paul & Barbara Fetters Family
If there ever was a “First Family of Huntington (College) University,” it is the family of Dr. Paul and Barbara Fetters. The Fetters family has been part of the fabric of the school for more than half its existence. The expansion and growth of the university has paralleled the involvement and the family’s growth.
Among his roles at HU, Paul served as the Dean of Huntington University Graduate School of Christian Ministries from 1972-1997 and authored numerous books and scholarly publications. Barbara Fetters influenced countless students as a language arts teacher for many years at Huntington North High School. They raised three sons — Brooks, Todd and Luke — and have eight grandchildren. All of them have attended Huntington University.
Paul Fetters died in 2022, and Barbara began cutting back on her various activities. But the successive generations of the Fetters family have continued to have a positive effect on the university, the church and the community.
Francis “Bill” Fink
Francis Anthony “Bill” Fink’s lasting legacy to Huntington County was overseeing the expansion of Our Sunday Visitor, including the construction of its current building at the eastern edge of Huntington.
After his graduation from the University of Notre Dame in 1930, Fink joined OSV with his uncle, Bishop John Francis Noll, who founded the printing business in Huntington while pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Fink held the title of managing editor, and worked closely with Bishop Noll in the original building located in downtown Huntington. With the expansion of the company, it became clear that the OSV building at Park Drive and Warren Street was inadequate. The new building was completed in 1961, by which time the circulation of the publication had reached one million copies per week.
As executive vice president, Fink guided the continued growth of the company. He served as a national leader with two terms as president of the Catholic Press Association. He died on Dec. 4, 1971.
Dale Francis was a passionate man.
He certainly was passionate in his Christian faith. His lasting imprint was his passion for communicating; for telling stories, whether it was as a 14-year-old writing sports for a small Ohio daily newspaper, or as a columnist reaching out to a million American Catholics through his commentary as executive editor of Our Sunday Visitor.
Francis served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, during which he converted to Catholicism. He started diocesan publications in North Carolina and Texas, and was the founder of the University of Notre Dame Press.
He wrote a syndicated column that ran in 23 newspapers across the country and provided one of the most prolific and influential voices on issues of importance to the Catholic Church. He joined OSV as executive editor in 1964.
Francis showed his passion for the Huntington community in the last 10 years of his life through his “Our Town” columns for the Huntington Herald-Press, with his local vignettes painting a vivid tapestry of his adopted hometown.
Dr. Eugene Habecker
Eugene B. Habecker was born in the house he grew up in – one of six siblings on a dairy farm in Lancaster County, near Hershey, Pa. As a student with “big dreams” of a life beyond bucolic Pennsylvania, he yearned for an education at a Christian college. He found that at Taylor University, where he also found a fellow student, Marylou Napolitano, who would become his wife. Habecker came to Huntington in the summer of 1978 as the eventual successor to President E. DeWitt Baker. He spent his first year on the job assembling the college’s long-range development plan, which has served as the blueprint for the ongoing physical transformation of the campus. At age 35, Habecker became one of the youngest college presidents in America. For the next decade, Eugene Habecker worked to carry out the plan he had designed. He left Huntington in 1991 to head the American Bible Society, then returned to Taylor as its president in 2005. He retired from Taylor in 2016.
One of the country's most decorated sportswriters and sports authors, Hammel was named Indiana sportswriter of the year 16 times and has been honored by numerous halls of fame. A graduate of Huntington High School, the longtime sports editor of the Bloomington Herald-Times has covered NCAA basketball championships and multiple Olympic Games, among many other top events. He is the author of several books, including numerous publications on the Indiana University men's basketball team and coach Bob Knight.
“If Eric Clapton played jazz, he’d be Denny Jiosa.”
The comparison from a leading music magazine puts into clear context the quality of Denny Jiosa’s music and the level of regard the guitarist has earned over his career.
While still a student at Crestview Junior High, Jiosa was writing and performing music. It wasn’t long after graduating from Huntington North High School that he was producing and on tour opening for major acts such as Bo Diddley and BB King.
He is a Grammy-nominated producer and sought-after session guitarist, playing everything from polka to gospel, rock to country, to blues and his signature jazz. All those influences plus his natural gifts have fed into a diverse solo style, giving him a sound that defies classification and draws respect as an innovator.
Jiosa made his way to the American music mecca of Nashville, where he has been a fixture for more than three decades. In addition to working on more than 200 albums as producer, engineer or musician, he has put out nine solo albums. He recently has shared his love of wine, creating events to pair tastings with his music.
Dr. Fred Loew
Fred Loew was a Michigan native who was among the earliest graduates of Huntington College. He returned to his alma mater just two years later — in 1904 — to teach botany and biology. Those pursuits led him into the broader study of agriculture, inspiring him to establish a degree program and an agricultural experiment station on campus. During World War I, Loew was tapped to organize 60 acres of community “victory gardens,” and that effort led to his being appointed in 1918 as the county’s first Agricultural Agent. He served just four years in that capacity, but is credited with championing the cold pack method of canning and introducing soybeans to northeast Indiana as a cash crop. Loew taught at Huntington College for more than 30 years, and during that time was instrumental in creating the school’s botanical garden/arboretum and its herbarium. The herbarium contains more than 12,000 plant species from Huntington County and survives to this day. Loew also championed development of local 4-H program and, as an influential fair board member, was a driving force in imparting a 4-H focus to the annual Huntington County Fair.
Archbishop John F. Noll
Perhaps the best-known Catholic communicator of his time, the works of Archbishop John F. Noll and his Huntington-based Our Sunday Visitor publication reached nearly every Catholic household in the country, with a circulation of 1 million at its peak. He was an outspoken advocate for numerous causes and worked against anti-Catholic efforts. He was instrumental in the building of churches, schools and orphanages, and was a best-selling author of numerous books.
Eiffel Plasterer was a teacher-turned-showman who used the humble soap bubble to both instruct and entertain. He became intrigued by bubbles as a physics student at DePauw University in the 1920s, and after a 40-year career teaching physics at Huntington High School, took his “Bubbles Concerto” to audiences across America. He created bubbles in unusual colors and geometric shapes, while some would perform “tricks” at his bidding. Along the way, Plasterer used his fragile tools to impart lessons in chemistry, physics … or everyday aspirations: “Life,” he once observed, “is like blowing bubbles – our hopes and our dreams. And they don’t all have to break.”
Since its founding in 1915, Huntington’s Erie Community Band has provided the musical backdrop for many of the town’s most important gatherings. For 54 of those years, Elmer Rahn not only conducted the band, but was the leader who kept it together through its toughest times.
Born to a family of musicians and railroad workers, Rahn picked up the cornet at a young age. When he was old enough, Rahn went to work for the Erie Railroad in Huntington. In 1915, railroad president F.D. Underwood sparked the creation of local bands along the rail line. When the Huntington band was formed, Rahn was ready with his horn.
Rail strikes caused railroad bands to disband, but Huntington’s Erie Band continued. Rahn took over as band director in 1922 and kept the group going, even when new railroad union rules threatened its existence in the 1960s. Rahn died in 1976, but because of his leadership and his dedicated musicians, the Erie Band not only survived, but continues to thrive.
In 1904, Luke Scheer was born in Huntington County, and from an early age he was immersed in the rich native history of the area,. His mother Elizabeth was raised in St. Marys, Kansas, which had been a Jesuit Mission for the Pottawatomi. As a child, Scheer attended Miami-center events, such as the 100th birthday of Kilsoquah, the granddaughter of Little Turtle. As an adult, Scheer followed his interest in the Miami people. In 1943, he purchased the historical home of Miami (Myaamia) leader Jean Baptiste Richardville located at the Forks of the Wabash, near Huntington. He spent years researching and preserving the Miami culture. Through his work, he gained a reputation for being knowledgeable in Miami history and genealogy. He was a champion for the Miami’s rights and was dedicated to the goal of federal recognition of the Miami Indians of Indiana. He helped lay the groundwork for Huntington’s Historic Forks of the Wabash.
Among the greatest sportscasters of all time, Chris Schenkel broadcast sports on television and radio from all corners of the world. With his recognizable baritone, the Bippus native was the voice of New York Giants football, boxing, Triple Crown horse racing, the Masters golf tournament and the Olympics, among many others. Later in his career he became the most recognizable broadcaster in the history of professional bowling. Schenkel was National Sportscaster of the year four times. He was inducted into 16 halls of fame and earned a lifetime achievement Emmy award.
Harry Allen "H. Allen" Smith
The writing career of humorist H. Allen Smith, who delighted readers worldwide in the middle of the 20th century, began as teenage cub reporter for the Huntington Press. Smith was born in 1907 in McLeansboro, Ill. His family moved to Huntington shortly after World War I. He left school after the 8th grade and joined the Press at age 15. By 1929 he had worked his way to New York City, where he honed his unique style. During World War II, Smith became one of the most popular authors in America. It was a time when people desperately needed a laugh, and he delivered. He burst into the literary scene in 1941 with the autobiographical “Low Man On a Totem Pole,” which included chapters detailing his exploits in Huntington. The last of his 37 books was published in 1970, six years before his death
Warren’s Pulse Opera House was a center of entertainment more than a century ago, but it took Cynthia Smyth-Wartzok to rescue the theater and revive it as a home of the arts. Since she restored the building in 1986, Smyth-Wartzok has directed more than 130 productions. She has exposed the local population, including more than 10,000 young people, to live theater, many for the first time. She has been honored numerous times from the local to international level, and continues to give her time as a volunteer in addition to her work with the Pulse Opera House.
Growing up as one of 13 children, John Wenning’s early life was often chaotic and confusing.
As high school graduation approached, he was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. He had been taking piano lessons since the eighth grade, and his mother encouraged him to consider a career in music.
A stop-and-start time at Ball State culminated with degrees in music education, and a teaching position at Huntington North High School. Wenning remade the school’s show choir and created one of the most consistently successful programs in the state. His Varsity Singers captured numerous grand championships, including being named Indiana’s top concert choir in 1996.
Wenning has earned multiple teaching awards. He was Huntington County Community Schools Teacher of the Year in 1996, and was recognized by Ball State with an Alumni Achievement Citation in 2006.
Many of his students have followed their choral experience into careers in music. In particular, Wenning has taken pride in finding those students who have the potential to be great, and seeing them overcome circumstances to achieve success.
Rev. Milton Wright
A few years before the Wright Brothers soared into history from a wind-swept hill at Kitty Hawk, their father helped a Huntington County institution take wing.
Rev. Milton Wright was a pivotal figure in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ at a time when church leaders were seeking a place to educate the denomination’s young people. Without his support and approval, the institution we now know as Huntington University might not have been established here.
Doctrinal difference had led to a division in the Church of the United Brethren Church in 1889 and Wright, one of the denomination’s bishops, led a breakaway group. In 1897, shortly after a group of civic leaders brought Wright and other church officials a timely proposal to locate a college in Huntington, what was initially called Central College came into existence.
Without the courage and determination of Milton Wright’s sons Orville and Wilbur, mankind’s conquest of the air would not have begun as it did. And without Milton Wright’s vision and influence, a transformative chapter in Huntington County’s history might have unfolded differently.