Retrospective: What happened to UIndy’s yearbook

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For 89 years, the University of Indianapolis had a yearbook. It was titled “The Oracle” and was the university’s very first student publication, according to an article from The Reflector’s archives. The Reflector often updated students on the status of the yearbook’s production, writing in an issue from Sept. 21, 1928 that, “It is planned to make this year’s Oracle the best that any graduating class has prepared.”

Beginning with its first edition in 1909, “The Oracle” documented one full academic year at the university. It always included photos of the students, sorting them by their academic standing (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and often included photos of the faculty as well. Special attention was paid to student activities, with plenty of pages being dedicated each year to the different societies, clubs and organizations on campus. 

It is safe to say that the yearbook was a valued publication at the university. In a 1969 issue of The Reflector, the editor of “The Oracle” at the time, Paul Thomas, described the yearbook as “more than just historical records as it reflects the emotions, the ideas, and the special moments of the students… For the freshmen, the past Oracles can be a sneak preview of their first year in college.” 

“The Oracle” received many awards and accolades over the years. In a printing of Alumni News from 1965, it was documented that the 1964 “Oracle” was awarded an excellent rating by the National School Yearbook Association. In 1991, The Reflector reported that “The Oracle” placed first in the state among schools with less than 7,500 students at the Indiana Collegiate Press Association Conference.

It has now been 24 years since the last edition of “The Oracle” was printed in 1998. According to former chair of the Department of Communication Pat Jefferson, there were many reasons for the discontinuation of UIndy’s yearbook. The issues began when The Reflector and “The Oracle,” which were previously under the jurisdiction of the Office of Advancement, became the responsibility of the Department of Communication, specifically the journalism department. 

These publications that had been more akin to clubs or student organizations became classes, and it was incredibly difficult to find people that could teach them both, Jefferson said. She said “The Oracle” did not have the staff and resources it needed to put together a good publication. When she found out that at other universities, such as Ball State University, the yearbook was not under the jurisdiction of their journalism department and that yearbooks were beginning to go out of fashion, she proposed that “The Oracle” be discontinued. 

While it is unfortunate that UIndy’s yearbook came to an end, the hard work of the students and faculty that were able to make it happen for so many years lives on. UIndy’s archives contain 68 editions of “The Oracle,” both in print editions available at Krannert Memorial Library and online in PDFs. Looking through the pages provides a glimpse not only into the culture of American college students at the time of each printing, but into the accomplishments and attachments made by UIndy’s alumni during their time here as well.

From the foreword of “The Oracle’s” 1944 edition: “It is the hope of the staff that with the passing years this Oracle might become a symbol of friendships formed, and the many happy days spent here. Perhaps in idle moments it will be comforting to permit the mind to wander back on these scenes of pleasant memories. You may look through this volume and be carried on the wings of time back to your college days, reliving and reacting the events which will forever be prized and dear. If in coming years the value of this book increases in your estimation and becomes a cherished reminder of your college days, we shall be content.”

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