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State higher education leader put his stamp on campus

May 3, 2016

Robert Cavanaugh with Herman Wells and Dr. Evans

Robert E. Cavanaugh, right, met in 1938 with Dr. Evans, left, and Herman B Wells, center, to discuss university operations. | PHOTO COURTESY OF INDIANA UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES

For more than four decades, Cavanaugh Hall has been a central site for IUPUI classes, offices and a headquarters for the School of Liberal Arts.

Robert Cavanaugh

Robert E. Cavanaugh is the man for whom IUPUI's first classroom building is named. Cavanaugh Hall also has been the home of the School of Liberal Arts throughout campus history. | PHOTO COURTESY OF INDIANA UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES, IMAGE NUMBER P0024766

But who was Robert E. Cavanaugh, the man for whom the building is named? He played a key role in Indiana University's Indianapolis programs during the 1920s, '30s and '40s, and, working closely with renowned IU figures such as former President Herman B Wells, helped the university grow into its role as part of the state's higher education foundation.

Cavanaugh was director of the IU Extension Center from 1918 to 1921, and then served as dean of the Extension Division from 1921 to 1946. During his tenure, the extension division expanded in the classes it offered and the enrollments it served, and that meant moving into buildings that became known as the Downtown Campus.

During his years running the IU's Indianapolis operation, the Extension Division occupied several different quarters, including spaces in:

  • Merchants Bank Building at Washington and Meridian streets
  • Former School of Medicine building at 102 N. Senate Ave.
  • A building at 319 N. Pennsylvania St.
  • Bobbs-Merrill Building at 122 E. Michigan St.
  • Indiana Lumbermen's Insurance Company building at 518 N. Delaware St.
  • Carpenters Building at 222 E. Michigan St.
  • Marott Building at 902 N. Meridian St.

The building that bears his name, Cavanaugh Hall, was IUPUI's first undergraduate classroom building. Its original address was 425 Agnes St., before that street was renamed University Boulevard. It was part of a three-building complex that was the heart of the fledgling campus, along with what are now Lecture Hall and Joseph T. Taylor Hall, then known as the Lecture Center Building and the Library Building.

Originally designed as a nine-story building with windows all around, Cavanaugh Hall was adjusted for budgetary and environmental concerns. It housed classrooms but also contained offices for faculty and staff, as well as the campus bookstore and administrative offices.

Cavanaugh Hall and its distinctive roofline.

The roof of Cavanaugh Hall was the highest point at IUPUI in the campus's early years and was a distinctive part of the look of the campus.

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