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May 1, 2004
 

Former first lady speaks at launch of O'Bannon Institute
 
Judy O'Bannon visits Ivy Tech to dedicate new community service effort
By Steve Hinnefeld, Herald-Times Staff Writer
May 1, 2004

Speaking from a lifetime of volunteerism and community service, Judy O'Bannon said reaching out to other people has been her key to joy and fulfillment.

"You bring them together, and when you do, you feed each other, and the community is healed," she said.

The former Indiana first lady spoke Friday at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington at the first O'Bannon Institute on Community Service, named for her husband, the late Gov. Frank O'Bannon.

More than 300 people attended the daylong event, which included discussions about nonprofit organizations, service learning in higher education and politics as community service.

The institute is part of Ivy Tech's plan for a Center for Civic Engagement, which will focus on promoting service learning for students, involving faculty and staff in service activities and engaging the community in discussions of local issues.

Ivy Tech Chancellor John Whikehart said the Friday event got the project off to a strong start.

"The energy level was even higher and better than we hoped for," he said. "It's a great beginning to what we want to accomplish here at the college."

Naming the institute after O'Bannon recognized the governor for establishing the Community College of Indiana system, of which Ivy Tech is a part, said Ivy Tech board member Ron Powell, who moderated a panel on government service.

"Governor, if you're listening, I know you never liked this word, but I think you'd be proud of what we're trying to do," he said.

Judy O'Bannon chairs the Indiana 2016 Task Force, which is planning the state's bicentennial, and is director of external affairs for Peace House, a collaboration by Earlham, Goshen and Manchester colleges. She will be the commencement speaker next Saturday at Indiana University, where she met her husband when both were students.

In a conversation with Indianapolis WISH-TV news anchor Debby Knox, she traced her involvement in community service to her childhood during World War II, when neighbors donated scrap metal for the war effort and her mother ran a "doll hospital" to mend used toys for servicemen's children.

She recalled in detail the satisfaction she got from helping teach younger children at church school when she was in the seventh grade.

"I must have found that I liked working with children, and they gave me something back," she said.

She talked about getting to know neighbors on Indianapolis's supposedly blighted Old North Side when her husband was lieutenant governor. And she recalled the criticism she faced when she worked for seven years to have the governor's residence renovated and made handicapped accessible, using donated private money.

"It is a public space - 10,000 people come through there every year," she said.

She also talked about the pleasure she had being involved with her husband in civic life, from gardening with Indiana Girls School residents to reading to elementary-school children to helping establish orphanages and clinics in Moldova.

"Frank and I both felt it was just such a privilege to do what we did," she said.

Reporter Steve Hinnefeld can be reached at 331-4374 or by e-mail at shinnefeld@heraldt.com