First Military Professor Celebrated
On Friday, October 20, 2023, Indiana University Bloomington gathered to celebrate the donation of military artifacts and papers from Brigadier General Jacob Ammen to the University Archives. Bloomington Provost and IU Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav was on hand to thank the family for their donation and to note the importance of IU’s first military professor’s possessions coming to the university after 150 plus years. The recognition ceremony took place in the Indiana Memorial Union’s Federal Room, a fitting place for such an honor. Army ROTC and Indiana University Libraries’ University Archives presided over the celebration.
Ammen’s descendants, Harold and Lloyd Williams, donated Ammen's Colt revolver, his field sword, and ceremonial sword to the University Archives along with correspondence, a diary, and a portrait of the Brigadier General in his military dress. Ammen, who fought in the Civil War for the Union, was a mathematics professor and the first instructor of Military Science at IU. “Big Jake,” the cannon that is fired at the beginning of each football game, is named after him.
The celebration featured several speakers. Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Giordano, current professor of military science, spoke of the foundation Ammen created. Giordano remarked that IU was the fourth institution in the country to provide military instruction. Ammen set IU up for many successes thereafter.
Next, Lloyd Williams came to the podium and related the story of speaking to Dina Kellams, Director of the University Archives, for the first time. The family wasn’t sure how they would be received, worrying that the IU reception would be one of rejection. Who would want those old things? However, Williams said, the reception was quite the opposite. Kellams and the IU community were excited. Since then, the family has learned of “Big Jake” and other details of their ancestor’s life.
Last to speak was Boomington Provost and IU Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav, who shared the importance of such historical items in the academic lives of students. He pointed out that artifacts and primary source materials engage students, bringing history to life.
The two swords and pistol were displayed for audience members to enjoy. Archives' staff were joined by John Summerlot from IU Emergency Management and Continuity and Master of Library Science student Evan Brandon. Summerlot, who used to be the director of the IU Center for Veteran and Military Services, is an avid IU history and military expert. After the program, he shared some of the anecdotes on Ammen he has found while researching. Brandon, a first-year graduate student and employee of the University Archives, had the privilege of describing the collection and wrote a blog post about it.