Friends of Library to hold literary luncheon; Ward featured speaker The Friends of the Vermillion Public Library Literary Luncheon is scheduled for April 8 at 11:30 a.m. The event will be held at the library and is part of the National Library Week activities. Tickets may be purchased for $6.50 at the library.
This year's program is "Drink, Dames, and Droppers: The Making of the Vermillion Public Library," presented by historian Stephen Ward. Ward has conducted research into the history of the library in honor of Vermillion Public Library's 100th anniversary and is putting together a brief history that will be available this fall.
Ward, son of Stephen R. and Ann Ward, grew up in Vermillion. He graduated from Vermillion High School in 1985 and received his bachelor's degree in history from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN. After college, Ward spent time on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, working for a congressman from Iowa.
He did his graduate work at USD, where he received a master's in American history in 1993, and at American University in Washington, DC. He lived in Washington and Baltimore, MD, before returning to Vermillion.
He now lives with his wife, Carol, and son, Sam, in the house he grew up in. Ward has always been interested in the history of Vermillion. When he was young the 1881 flood and the legend of a sunken railroad engine were of particular interest, as he walked on the railroad tracks next to the "whirlpool."
In recent years, postcards, photos and written histories have been his means to try to satisfy his curiosity about the history of Vermillion, but he says he has been disappointed by the lack of personality and social conflict in these descriptions.
"When I was asked to write a brief history of the Vermillion Public Library, I accepted the assignment as a means to add a bit of color to the writing of our local history," said Ward.
That "color" includes the involvement of former USD President Garrett Droppers and the Women's Christian Temperance Union in the funding and founding of the Vermillion Public Library, which has gone unmentioned in previous historical publications. According to Ward, these and other details help to place the library into a historical context.
"My goal is to describe the local environment so that readers will get a sense of the personal alliances and divisions that led to the building of the Vermillion Public Library," said Ward. "Through that description, I hope to cast this civic achievement in a more familiar light and place our experience in the greater American story."
To hear more on Ward's colorful findings, join him and the Friends of the Vermillion Public Library for lunch April 8.