10 things you didn’t know about Franklin College

To those new and to those old, Franklin College is full of mystery in its history, from past to present.

The Franklin sat down with president Thomas Minar—who is getting into the swing of things for his second year at the college—to discuss the college’s history.

Below, Minar shares 10 facts that many Franklin College students, faculty and staff—both new and old—may not know.

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Thomas Minar, Franklin College’s president. Photo by Jordan Brodner.

#1: Franklin College hasn’t always been named Franklin College.

The college was originally named the Indiana Manual Labor Institute.

When the land was chosen for the college in 1835, the college planned to combine manual labor with studies, which was called “liberal studies,” with a focus on mathematics and writing.

In 1844, when the name was changed to Franklin College, the college’s directors sought for its standards to be those of the best liberal arts colleges of the east.

“In the Midwestern United States, that was pretty progressive,” Minar said. “One might say that, educationally, we have a progressive history. And we are continuing that today with all of our focus on engage and experiential learning.”

#2: Franklin College was the first Indiana college to allow women.

In 1842, Franklin College admitted 28 new students to the women’s department, becoming the first co-ed educational college in the state.

This is notable because, at the time, the college was located in a particularly rural area and was making a progressive step in allowing women to be taught amongst men.

#3: The college isn’t directly named after Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin College was not directly named after Benjamin Franklin. Instead, it was named after the city of Franklin, where it’s located.

But the city of Franklin did, in fact, get its name from Benjamin Franklin, an important intellectual inspiration to many.

#4: Our colors have been the same for nearly 120 years.

In 1899, the college declared its official colors to be old gold and navy blue.

#5: Athletes used to be the “fighting Baptists.”

The first Franklin College athletics teams were known as the “fighting Baptists.”

The name was changed to “grizzlies” in 1929 to honor Coach Earnest Bishop Wagner, who went by the nickname “Griz.”  He was a member of the class of 1912.

#6: The first black man graduated from Franklin College nearly 115 years ago.

In 1902, Arthur Wilson became the first African-American graduate from Franklin College. He went on to become a medical doctor.  

#7: The Ben statue wasn’t originally Franklin’s.

The Benjamin Franklin statue standing guard at the intersection in front of Old Main, at Branigin Boulevard and Monroe Street, stood for more than three decades outside the headquarters of the Indianapolis Typographical Union.

It was given to and installed at the college on the anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s 257th birthday in 1963.

#8: The road at the front of campus has only been there for 12 years.

Branigin Boulevard, the street that serves as the gateway to the college, did not exist until 2004.

The project was a collaboration between the college and the city of Franklin.

It’s named in honor of Roger Branigin—a Franklin native, a Franklin College graduate and Indiana’s 42nd governor.

“That’s just fun because, to today’s students, it’s a modern part of campus that exists,” Minar said. “Those gates that are the entrance to the college didn’t exist previously. So that didn’t exist as a formal entrance.”

#9: An alumni went on to direct Hollywood films.

Robert Wise, who graduated in class of 1936, directed the movie “The Sound of Music,” which earned five Academy Awards in 1965, including best picture and best director.

He also directed the widely known films “West Side Story” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

“You can’t see ‘The Sound of Music’ too many times,” Minar said.

#10: A recent alumna won a track and field national championship.

In May 2015, Anna Murdock won the 800 meter run at the NCAA division three outdoor track and field national championships to become the first national champion in Franklin College history.

In doing so, she missed her own commencement in 2015.

Minar said learning facts like these help us shape our personal history with Franklin College. 

“It’s by learning these interesting, intricate facts—that are from the corners of our existence instead of the center of our existence—that sort of weave our story,” Minar said. “It’s important for students to learn some of that story, because as you’re here for your years, you become a part of that story too.”

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About Matthew Brown 13 Articles
Matthew Brown is a news writer for The Franklin. As you can tell from his column, Matthew likes to write a lot about science, but is a huge fan of writing as well. Matthew hopes to graduate with a double major; a biology one and a journalism one. This is Matthew's second year as a staff writer for The Franklin.

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