Blog post by Randi Richardson
Looking at the busy parking lot in front of Kroger at Second and College today, one would see little or no evidence that the property was once the original campus of Indiana University. But before the last remaining building was demolished, several relics were removed and made a part of the new campus in Dunn’s Woods. One of those items was the sundial.
Gil Stormont, an IU graduate class of 1868, newspaper publisher, editor and historian, reminisced many years later that the idea of a sundial was conceived of by his professor, Cyrus M. Dodd. Professor Dodd came to IU from the east in 1866 to fill a vacancy in the math department. The following year, when the regular professor returned, he was appointed professor of Latin Language and Literature and at the end of the next year, 1868, he left to chair the math department of his alma mater, Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
According to Stormont, the greater part of the funds for construction of the sundial was provided by his class. Nelle V. Neill Jackson (1893-1974) who compiled a family history for her descendants many years ago, reported that it was her grandfather, Greenberry Cruse (1842-1909) of Monroe County with his partner, Mr. Bierly, that “built and sunk [the] sundial.” It was placed in the center of the main walk leading to the college entrance.
Several interesting stories about the sundial have been passed down through the ages. One involves Rev. Dr. Cyrus Nutt who was president of IU from 1860 until 1875. It is said that one evening after sunset, in the darkening twilight, he came up to the iron railing around the sundial and absentmindedly struck a match to see what time it was by the dial.
In 1883, following a destructive fire at the university, the campus was moved to Dunn’s Woods where it is located today. The one remaining building on the old campus became the property of the City of Bloomington in 1897 and was used for many years as the Bloomington High School. About that same time the sundial was moved to the new campus. It was situated just outside Maxwell Hall where it inspires little notice today from busy students and faculty.
Two IU students, Mathilda Zwicker and Otto Paul Klopsch met at the sundial. Both graduated in 1896, the year the sundial was relocated to Maxwell Hall, and went on to marry. Although they left Indiana to pursue a career in other states, the college sweethearts had fond memories of Bloomington and often reminisced to their children about their college days and their first meeting at the sundial. Mathilda passed away in 1933 after being happily married for thirty-seven years.
Following the death of Otto, in 1935, Otto Klopsch, Jr. met with President William Lowe Bryan and asked to spread his parent’s ashes at the base of the sundial. The request was granted. Shortly thereafter Mathilda and Otto were laid to rest. If one takes the time to look closely, he or she might notice the bronze plaque at the base of the sundial which reads in part, “They met at this sundial when classmates. Their ashes rest here together until eternity.”
Today the sundial is well worn by time and few are familiar with its seemingly ordinary history. However it still stands as testament of the university’s early history.