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Virginia Harrison

Faces of IUPUI: Virginia Harrison

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Virginia Harrison. Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Virginia Harrison and IUPUI have something special in common: they share a January 24 birthday. Harrison was born in 1949; 20 years later, Indiana University, Purdue University and Indianapolis officials fulfilled a vision for the city and created IUPUI. But Harrison's connection to IUPUI runs deeper. She is also a two-time IUPUI graduate. Just months before the campus was officially established, a then 20-year-old Harrison applied to IU to study education at the IU Extension in Indianapolis.

At the time of Harrison's application, classes were held at extension sites in a variety of locations around the city and this translated into a regular commute to 902 New York Street for evening classes after working her full-time job at an insurance company. As she aimed toward her degree, she watched the campus take shape. Harrison, who graduated with her undergrad in elementary education in 1972, was among the first School of Education students to start and finish their degrees in Indianapolis.

"It's been exciting to watch the campus grow over the years, and especially to watch the School of Education grow to focus on urban education in our community," Harrison said.

Virginia Harrison chats with Director of the IUPUI School of Education Curriculum Resource Center Erin Cassity.
Virginia holds a picture of herself from when she was a student at IUPUI.
Virginia Harrison looks at some old photos of campus to elicit some memories before she participates in her oral history.

From top: Harrison chats with the IUPUI School of Education Director of the Curriculum Resource Center Erin Cassity after learning that they shared many connections from the early School of Education; Harrison holds a picture of herself when she was a student at IUPUI; Harrison looks at photos in the IUPUI Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives in advance of her 50th Anniversary oral history interview. Photos by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

She began teaching shortly after her graduation from IUPUI and devoted her teaching career to the school system that gave her foundation, Indianapolis Public Schools, where she was an educator for more than 30 years. Harrison returned to IUPUI and received her master's degree in 1977.

"My entire teaching career was spent in the Indianapolis Public Schools where I taught elementary education until I retired in 2004. During that time, I explored alternative teaching practices like Montessori and introduced subjects like economics and environment education into my classroom," said Harrison.

Harrison served on the School of Education alumni board from 2005-2007, and her legacy continues at IUPUI where her daughter is currently a staff member.

"IUPUI has been and always will be my university," said Harrison.