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“To Someone More Precious Than Gold”: Love Letters to Margaret Bordner from Olympian Harold M. Osborn

Written by Jessica Followell

The Student Life and Cultures Archives recently acquired the letters of Olympian Harold M. Osborn. Dating from September 1924 through August 1928, Harold corresponded with Margaret Estelle Bordner. These letters chronicled their long-distance romance and courtship, with the couple ultimately marrying on September 7th, 1928.

Harold Osborn

After Margaret’s death in 2003, her daughters discovered the letters tucked away in a shoebox in her bedroom closet. Daughter Susan Osborn Jones compiled the letters into an album. They decided to donate a scanned copy of the album to the Archives, as both Harold and Margaret were alumni of the University of Illinois. These letters were written after Harold’s first Olympics and during Margaret’s studies at Illinois.

Harold M. Osborn graduated from the University of Illinois in 1922. During his time at Illinois, he was a member of the track and field team. Harold helped the team win both indoor and outdoor Big Ten titles in 1920, 1921, and 1922. He also tied for the NCAA and AAU outdoor high jump championships in 1922 [1]. During his Illinois career, Harold set six world records [2]. After his time at Illinois, Harold went on to compete at the 1924 Olympic games. He won the gold medal for both the high jump and decathlon, making him the only athlete to ever do so [3]. He competed again in the 1928 Olympic games. After finishing his athletic career, Harold returned to Champaign to practice osteopathic medicine. He maintained a close connection with his alma mater, helping coach the University of Illinois track team in the 1940s. His world record in standing high jump still stands today [4].

Continue reading ““To Someone More Precious Than Gold”: Love Letters to Margaret Bordner from Olympian Harold M. Osborn”

This Just In: Alpha Epsilon Phi Records, 1947-2017

Alpha Epsilon Phi Mu Chapter Members, 1947

Written by Anna Trammell

The Student Life and Culture Archives recently acquired the records of the Alpha Epsilon Phi Mu Chapter. These records, dating back to 1947, illustrate sorority and Jewish student life on campus through photographs, correspondence, and a complete set of meeting minutes 1958-1980. Also included are 15 scrapbooks from 1974 to 2017.

Alpha Epsilon Phi was founded in 1909 by seven Jewish women at Barnard College. The organization has initiated over 80,000 members nationwide. While it is an historically Jewish organization, AEPhi welcomes members of all faiths and backgrounds. [1] The sorority grew rapidly after its 1909 establishment and by 1929, 23 chapters were active in the United States. [2] Continue reading “This Just In: Alpha Epsilon Phi Records, 1947-2017”

New in the Archives: The Scrapbooks of Miriam Backs

Miriam Backs in 1950
Miriam Backs in 1950

Marissa Krein is a graduate student at the School of Information Science. She is currently completing a practicum at the Student Life and Culture Archives. 

Souvenirs from nights out in Champaign-Urbana

The Student Life and Culture Archives recently received four scrapbooks from the family of Miriam Backs chronicling her years as a student at the University of Illinois.

Miriam Carolyn Backs was born on November 30, 1928, in Nashville, Illinois. Her father, Gus H. Backs, was the owner and manager of Backs Department Store and her mother was a homemaker. Miriam grew up in the small southern Illinois town and graduated from Nashville Community High School in 1946. She chose to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and enrolled in the freshmen class of 1946. Mirroring her family’s business background, she majored in accounting at the College of Commerce and Business Administration (now College of Business). Her scrapbooks chronicle her four years at the university and are full of memorabilia highlighting her involvement on campus and her active social life as well as her various summer vacations through the South and Midwest. Continue reading “New in the Archives: The Scrapbooks of Miriam Backs”

2016 National Archives Conference for Fraternities and Sororities

Miriam Centeno, Collections Care Coordinator, leads a hands-on exhibits workshop
Miriam Centeno, Collections Care Coordinator, leads a hands-on exhibits workshop

Written by Anna Trammell

Maintaining and preserving an organization’s archives in tight economic times can be a challenge. Many national fraternities and sororities rely on staff whose primary responsibilities and expertise are in other areas. Others are fortunate to have volunteers who care for the archives. A smaller number employ a professional archivist. To assist national Greek organizations with their archival programs and to foster communication among these organizations about their archival activities, the Student Life and Culture Archives offers a national conference every other year at the University of Illinois campus that is designed to meet the archival needs of national fraternities and sororities.

Attendees break into small groups for discussion during a presentation on outreach
Attendees break into small groups for discussion during a presentation on outreach

This year’s conference was held June 2-4 at the iHotel and Conference Center in Champaign. Session topics included “Capturing and Preserving Your Organization’s Digital History” with Assistant University Archivist Chris Prom, “Copyright for Fraternity Archives” with Kappa Alpha Theta Archivist and Attorney Lisa McLaughlin, and “Exhibits 101 Workshop” with Collections Care Coordinator Miriam Centeno and Curator for Rare Books and Manuscripts Anna Chen. A complete schedule of events can be found here. Continue reading “2016 National Archives Conference for Fraternities and Sororities”

Cosmopolitan Club Postcards

Written by Breana McCracken

The Cosmopolitan Club was founded in 1907, making it the oldest international student organization on the University of Illinois campus. The purpose of the club was to cultivate social and Cosmopolitan Club post cardintellectual relationships between persons of different nationalities though a variety of activities and services. These activities included ethnic dinners, international coffee hours, parties, and various outings to cultural and social events and local attractions. The Cosmopolitan Club, or “Cosmo” Club for short, wished to offer opportunities for Americans and those from other countries to share experiences and exchange ideas. In addition to the programs, the Cosmo Club house on John Street served as a “home away from home” for several members and as a meeting place close to campus.

Recently, the Student Life and Culture (SLC) Archives acquired more materials related to the Cosmopolitan Club. These items included brochures, international dinner menus, club calendars, newsletters, and various items related to social activities and administrative proceedings of the club. All of the newest material was donated by Susan Taylor, faculty advisor of the Cosmopolitan Club and Assistant Professor of English as an International Language from 1964 to 1999.

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