Joseph Taylor helped shape early campus
March 29, 2016
Joseph T. Taylor, second from left, was a key figure in IUPUI's early years. He joined Mayor Richard G. Lugar, fourth from left with shovel, at the groundbreaking ceremony for what would become Cavanaugh Hall. | PHOTO COURTESY OF IUPUI SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES
As new generations of students and employees arrive at IUPUI, many are curious about the campus and its past. That includes getting acquainted with those for whom places like Cavanaugh Hall or Long Hospital were named.
One such name is Joseph T. Taylor: His name is linked to Taylor Hall, which houses multiple campus functions, including the IUPUI Multicultural Center. It also is tied to the annual Joseph T. Taylor Symposium, which celebrates Taylor’s role in civic engagement and his ties to the Indianapolis community.
For longtime IUPUI employees, Taylor’s impact is known. But for new members of the campus community, his role in the campus's launching and early years of growth was remarkable.
"Joseph Taylor was one of the giants of education in our university and our community," said then-Chancellor Gerald Bepko at the time of Taylor’s death in 2000. "His legacy will create a fitting memorial to his greatness here at IUPUI."
Taylor was the first dean of the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. He played a pivotal role in those early years, building strong relationships with people in the neighborhoods near the Michigan Street campus. His approach became a template for IUPUI in its growing role in the city of Indianapolis, including Taylor’s efforts to ensure that all residents had access to higher education.
He didn't limit his impact to the campus, either. Taylor played a key role in the integration of Indianapolis Public Schools, serving as one of two commissioners who assisted school officials in the desegregation effort that reshaped the city’s future.
Taylor came to Indiana University in 1962 as an associate professor of sociology, became a full professor in 1970 and was the dean of Liberal Arts from 1972 to 1978. He served as a special assistant and advisor to campus leaders until he was named professor emeritus in 1983. He remained active in IUPUI affairs after retirement.
Taylor was deeply committed to the Indianapolis community. When the School of Liberal Arts created a symposium that focused on issues of urban life and diversity, his name was a clear choice to convey the importance that IUPUI places on engagement connecting the community and the campus.
Joseph T. Taylor Hall was renamed in his honor in 2008. The building originally served as IUPUI’s first university library. Later, it became the home of University College and one of the cornerstones of students' academic lives.
To retired IUPUI history professor Monroe H. Little Jr., who has written often about the first dean, the role of Taylor Hall as the multicultural center and centerpiece of learning is a fitting tribute.
"Dr. Taylor had a deep and abiding faith in the power of education to make a difference in the lives of people, achieving human equality and creating a just, multiracial society," Little said during that ceremony.