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Alice Anne Callahan - Beloved teacher, musician and lover of the arts

Alice Anne Callahan was one of the most revered teachers during her 36 years at Baker. She also spent 4 years as an undergraduate at Baker and was a part of an extended Baker family.

Alice Anne Callahan was born February 24, 1926, to Charles and Ruth Jane Laury Callahan in Chicago, the eldest of three daughters, including Mary Jane and Charlene. The family was living in Independence, Kansas at the time, but her mother’s decision to give birth to Alice Anne in Chicago was presumably because two of Ruth Jane’s brothers were physicians in Chicago. Alice Anne’s father graduated from Baker in 1923 and was an accountant and engineer in Independence while her mother was a 1924 Baker grad. One unique aspect of Alice Anne’s lineage was that she was 1/32 Osage Indian through her father’s line, a fact that she celebrated throughout her life.

Alice Anne was a descendant of Pawhuska (which means White Hair in English), one of the most prominent Osage Indian chieftains at the beginning of the 19th century. At the time, Osage lands included most of what is now the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. In 1825, the Osage entered into a treaty with the US government ceding most of its territory to the government in exchange for payments and the grant of a new reservation in southeast Kansas which came to be called the Osage Diminished Reserve. In 1842, one of Pawhuska’s great granddaughters in Alice Anne’s line, Mary Louise Terrien, married a French-Canadian, Andrew Canville, at the French-Canadian settlement at the mouth of the Kaw (where it empties into the Missouri River) in what became Kansas City. Canville was a successful businessman and in 1844 began trading with the Osage. In 1847 he established a trading post in the Osage Reserve on the Neosho River near what is now Shaw, Kansas. However, the Osage Reserve began to be overrun by settlers illegally homesteading in the area and the US government did little to stem the flow. To try and manage this issue, the Osage and the government met at the Canville Trading Post to sign the Treaty of 1865 which opened up part of the Osage Diminished Reserve to settlement with proceeds of the sale of land to the settlers going into a trust for the benefit of the Osage. Despite this agreement, the illegal settlement continued and in 1870, Congress passed legislation mandating that the Osage to move from the existing reserve into a new reserve which was a part of Indian Territory (which became the State of Oklahoma).

The advantage of this move to the Osage was that they had the resources to outright buy the land in this new reserve so they could not be moved again. It was not until many years later that oil was discovered in the new reserve and the Osage became among the richest people per capita in the world. Andrew and Mary Louise Canville and their family moved to the new reserve and established a new trading post in 1871. Among their many children was Louise Monica Canville, Alice Anne’s great grandmother, who married Eugene Callahan in 1874. Two generations of Callahan’s were born in the Osage Reserve including Alice Anne’s father, Charles, in 1899. Charles’ family moved to Kansas when he was very young, and they had settled in Independence, Kansas by 1920.

Charles’s mother, Anna, was a divorced mother of 4 children but somehow the family managed to send Charles and two of his sisters, Mary and Gertrude, to Baker. We can only speculate that some of the funding for education may have come from the Osage Indian oil income allotments. Charles was a Kappa Sig at Baker and two of his fraternity brothers were Ray and Everett Laury. The Laury family owned a farm just east of Iola and it must have been prosperous because all seven of the Laury siblings who lived to adulthood attended Baker. It was no doubt through this connection that Charles met the Laury brother’s sister, Ruth Jane Laury, who was a Tri Delt. Charles graduated in 1923 and he and Ruth Jane were married in a ceremony at the Tri Delt house after she graduated a year later.

Alice Anne and her sisters (Mary Jane – born 1928 and Charlene – born 1933) grew up in a large stone house in Independence. She grew up to be tall and stately in the Osage Indian tradition (the Osage were known to be tall and dignified in their appearance). She attended Independence High School where Alice Anne (nicknamed “Ally”) was a leader. She was active in: the Girl Reserves (an organized community service and self-esteem building club) serving as the Secretary, Vice President and President; the Girl’s Athletic Association where she served as President; the Pep Club (named “The Canine Coeds” because the school’s mascot was the Bulldogs) serving as Vice President; as a Football Queen’s Attendant; Daughters of the American Revolution as a Representative; Orchestra (cello) where she was Secretary; the symphonies “Messiah”, “Holy City” and “Americana”; and Student Council where she was Secretary-Treasurer. She graduated in 1944.

Following in her mother’s and father’s footsteps, Alice Anne enrolled in Baker in 1944 and majored in Music. Like her mother, she joined Delta Delta Delta, serving as Secretary, Chaplain and Recommendations Chairman. She was in the Choir, the String Ensemble, was the Accompanist for the Male Quartet and was the College Fellowship Pianist. She was also involved in the Women’s Athletic Association, the International Relations Club, and the Dean's Honor Roll.

In an interview she recalled some of the unique experiences she had while at Baker. “When I was in school all the freshman had to wear freshman beanies. If an upperclassman found a freshman not wearing their beanie, they would throw them in the lake.” The lake she was referring to was situated south of the Mabee Memorial Hall which was sometimes called “Lake Parmenter” after the long time Baker professor who taught at Baker from 1883 to 1922, the same professor that Parmenter Hall is named after. The lake was largely drained fighting the fire that destroyed the old gymnasium building in 1943 and rubble from the construction of Mabee was used to fill in the lake in 1947.

The Freshman Beanie

Lake Parmenter

More from the interview: “I really miss our weekly chapel. It wasn’t just religion; it was good entertainment too. It got everyone together.” Miss Callahan added that closing hours in the dorms made Baker more of a community. She recalls the time when at closing hour all of the guys headed back home at the same time. Freshman have had to live in dorms as long as she has been here, and she said that” gave everyone the chance to get to know each other”. Holidays were for picnics, not going home which is the present custom. She remembers “Sparky” who used to run the old Gem theater that was located downtown would show free spooky movies and everyone would come to watch.

She graduated from Baker University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music in 1948 and she received a Master’s Degree in Music from Northwestern University in 1949. She taught piano, cello, music appreciation and music theory at Southwest Texas State College (now Texas State University) in San Marcos for two years before returning to Baker in 1953.

At Baker, she was a teacher of freshman Music theory, private and class piano, Man and Fine Arts, Survey in Art, and Music Form and Analysis. She was a lecturer in one of the general education courses attended by most students. She served on the Faculty Advisory Committee to the President, Alumni Council, Dean’s Search Committee, Cultural Events Committee, General Affairs II Committee, and as Faculty Club President. She was the first ex officio representative of the faculty on the Board of Trustees. She was a member of P.E.O., American Association of University Women, American Association of University Professors, and the Alumni Board of Delta Delta Delta. She was a Sunday school teacher at the Baldwin United Methodist Church.

Alice Anne loved to travel. In 1952 she boarded a freighter and sailed down the coast to South America. In 1957 she took a one year leave to attend a Scandinavian Artist Seminar visiting several folk schools in Denmark. Folk schools (or Folk high schools as they are known in Europe), offer non-formal adult education typically for young adults. While there she affected many students and also attracted a few students back to Baker. She lived in Birkerod, Denmark outside of Copenhagen, a town where Walter Pinnell stayed during his trip 10 plus years later and he and Alice Anne enjoyed sharing remembrances of the times they spent there.

As a staff member for the National Methodist church in 1964 she visited eastern Europe. The trip included four weeks behind the Iron Curtain and four weeks in Russia. In 1968 she was one of 15 Baker faculty members and 15 students who spent 10 weeks of their summer in Botswana, Africa. Her “fantastic summer” included teaching in secondary schools, working hospitals and working with the Botswanan radio station. After returning to Baker she raised enough money to purchase a piano for the secondary school there.

On July 29, 1978, Alice Anne married Tom Russell, a friend and colleague at Baker, and became stepmother to his six children from a previous marriage. Tom was a renowned artist who taught at the Kansas City Art Institute for 15 years before joining the Baker Faculty in 1963. He retired in 1982. He and Alice Anne enjoyed 26 years of marriage.

Alice Anne led Baker’s first overseas interterm to Vienna in 1970 and in 1976 she led the first of several interterm trips to Denmark. These Interterm trips were legendary. Jerry Weakley assisted Alice Anne in leading a number of these trips and passed along some of the things he remembered. “Since most people (at least the Baker students) who signed up for the trips took it as an Interterm (for credit) Alice Anne developed through the years a book that included all the information that would be studied, History of the Hapsburgs, the Role of Austria in WWI, places of interest that we would visit and basically a greatly detailed syllabus. Alice Anne had two ladies in Vienna that we worked with who led the groups through the museums, palaces (Hofburg, Belvedere and Schonbrunn) and concert halls - Bea Otterbek and Mara. Mara was a professor at the University of Vienna and Bea was a licensed tour guide for the city and country.

“In Vienna we stayed at only one hotel - the Regina. The family who owned that hotel treated all Baker tour members like family. On our last trip to Vienna, I took a formal plaque that Alice Anne and I presented to the owner of the hotel and made him an honorary Baker Alumnus. . .. The staff at the Regina loved Alice Anne and Tom and in turn treated them as VIP’s. At one time there was a plaque proclaiming the Regina as the official hotel of Baker University that was in the main elevator.”

“A part of each Vienna Trip was also a visit for about 5-7 nights to Salzburg by either bus or usually by train. . .. After becoming acquainted with the city by Alice Anne and Tom, I led evening trips out to pubs/ice cream parlors, evening free concerts, the Opera, shopping districts and subway stops of interest that people could pursue more during the daytime and their free time. This included many visits to Grinzing in the Vienna Woods - the final stop on trolly #38 before returning to Vienna and our stop at Rooseveltplatz near the twin spired Votive Kirche. As I got into my 3rd trip and after I had explored all of these on my own, I started leading others on day trips to Prague, Budapest, Munich, and river boat trips on the Danube. Alice Anne (and later Tom) as well had done these for years until it just became a little or a lot too difficult for them to do in addition to the other responsibilities and activities with the groups just in Vienna. One of my most vivid memories was of attending a Catholic Mass with Alice Anne and our travel group that was delivered by Pope (John Paul II) from the exact same balcony of the Heldenplatz of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna where in 1938, Adolph Hitler announced the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria into the Reich.) That was by itself an incredible historic event and created lots of discussion led by Alice Anne and others around our evening dinner that night.” Over time, these trips became attractions not only for students, but alumni and Baldwin residents as well.

In 1971, Alice Anne was named as one of the Outstanding Educators of America. Outstanding Educators of America is an annual awards program honoring distinguished men and women for their exceptional service, achievements, and leadership in the field of education. Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who wrote the introductory message for the 1970 edition, says of the men and women included: "The greatest strength of any nation is its human resources. These are the men and women who by their actions in the classroom today mold the course of history. Our hope--the nation's youth-- is in their hands. As we honor these teachers, we are reminded of their awesome duty. As they have our confidence, we must give them the tools to wage Jefferson's 'crusade against ignorance. With men and women like these we know that our faith in education has not been misplaced." Guidelines for selection include an educator's talents in the classroom, administrative abilities, civic service, and professional recognition.

In the 1972-73 school year she went on sabbatical at Syracuse University where she started her doctorate in humanities. Her doctoral thesis concerned a unique Osage Indian Dance ceremony called "I’n-Lon-Schka". This was not just a dull academic treatise, but a thing of the heart, stemming from her Osage blood. In in the late 1980’s she decided to update her research and turn her dissertation into a book. "This was done all through oral sources, " she said. "Those were wonderful people to work with." She visited with the elders from the Oklahoma villages of Pawhuska, Hominy and Grayhorse for her original research. Then she took a sabbatical and updated her work to publish the book. "I talked with the sons of the men I first interviewed.” The book, “The Osage Ceremonial Dance I’n-Lon Schka” was published in 1990. University of Tulsa professor, Garrick Bailey, said that her book is “the best and most detailed description of the Osage I’n-Lon Schka yet written and probably ever to be written. It tells us a great deal about contemporary Osage society and is an important contribution to our knowledge of Osage and contemporary Indian life, as well as American Indian dance and music.”

Alice Anne did post graduate work at the University of Oregon and the University of California at Berkeley and was a special student in piano of Ezra Rachlin, Elof Nielsen and Mogens Melbye. In 1976-1977, Alice received the Outstanding Professor Award from Baker University and was inducted into the Teachers Hall of Fame in the 1990's. She retired from teaching at Baker in 1989 and after her retirement, she oversaw for many years the "Artists and Lecture Series" for Baker and the Baldwin Community. Throughout her life, she affected so many people. As she once said, "Baker is my life and my life is Baker."

She died April 12, 2004, following complications from heart surgery. Baker University has honored her with the creation of the Alice Anne Callahan Russell Memorial Plaza in front of the Baker Library.

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