Saluting Our Donors

Remembering Dr. Anita Aldrich, 1914-2012

There is no finer role model as a teacher, mentor, and benefactor than Dr. Anita Aldrich. Her lifetime of service to others is an inspiration to us, and her ideals live on in her generous gifts to our university and our school.

Dr. Anita Aldrich is the pre-eminent private benefactor to the IU School of Nursing in Bloomington. A former dean and faculty member at IU’s School of Public Health, Dr. Aldrich is one of Indiana University’s true giants.

Dr. Aldrich was born in the small town of Elmo, Missouri, “the last stop,” she once said, “in Missouri on the Wabash Line.” 

Dr. Aldrich’s parents and grandparents greatly influenced her values, instilling in her a lifelong desire to always do her best and to bring out the best in others. She once told the story of how, after outperforming her classmates on chin-ups in a school competition, her grandfather refused to praise her for her achievement. “You could have done more chin-ups,” he told her, “but instead you dropped from the bar simply because you had outperformed your classmates” – teaching the young Anita that meeting others’ expectations is less important than exceeding your own.

Dr. Aldrich graduated from Northwest Missouri State Teachers College in 1936 with degrees in English and physical education. She received her master’s degree from the University of Missouri in Kansas City in 1946 and her EdD degree at Penn State University in 1957.

Dr. Aldrich came to IU in 1964, when she joined the faculty of what was then the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER). In 1975, she became the school’s acting dean (serving for one year) and, in 1977, became the first chair of IU’s new Department of Physical Education. In 1971, she became the first woman member of the IU Athletics Committee and, after serving seven years, was named the first woman to chair the committee, a position she held from 1978 to her retirement in 1985. In 1996, she was inducted into the Indiana University Athletic Hall of Fame, where she was introduced by former IU basketball coach Bobby Knight, at his request. “I have never, in all the time I’ve been in sports, run into a better person running an operation than Anita Aldrich,” said Knight, “and I have a great feeling of appreciation for what she did.”
Early in her long and distinguished career, Dr. Anita Aldrich (left) was appointed as an advisor to President John F. Kennedy's Fitness Council.
In 2005, IU’s School of Public Health (formerly HPER) established the annual Anita Aldrich Distinguished Alumni Award to recognize an alumni who embodies “the ideals of Anita Aldrich by demonstrating outstanding achievements in professional excellence, service to the community, and loyalty to Indiana University.”

In retirement, Dr. Aldrich continued to give back to the Bloomington community, working tirelessly at the Salvation Army sorting and distributing clothing and knitting hundreds of mittens for those in need. She delivered Meals on Wheels until she could no longer drive and tutored adults as part of the Monroe County Public Library’s VITAL (Volunteers in Tutoring Adult Learners) program, where she also served on the board. Upon her passing, Dr. Aldrich’s estate made generous donations to IU SON Bloomington, making it possible for us to offer scholarships and opportunities for professional development to our students and to fund Say It Straight as part of the Aldrich Project.

Tiny, determined, and intensely private, Dr. Aldrich would be embarrassed by a tribute detailing her many accomplishments – but these accomplishments are important, not only for their impact on the community, but on the degree to which they inspired others.

In acknowledging her passing, friend and colleague, Dr. Sharon Van Oteghen of the University of Memphis, wrote:  “Dr. Aldrich was a caring, encouraging person who saw goodness and potential in everyone. How privileged we were as students, alumni, colleagues, and friends to have crossed her path and to have experienced a role model who untiringly displayed a dedication to community endeavors and to the belief that ‘the best is yet to come.’”

We share Dr. Oteghen’s sentiments: For IU SON Bloomington, there is no finer role model as a teacher, mentor, and benefactor than Dr. Anita Aldrich. Her lifetime of service to others is an inspiration to us, and her ideals live on in her generous gifts to our university and our school.