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Author pens life story of Martin University founder

chism nancy van note
Dr. Nancy Van Note Chism

A new biography shares the never-before-told life story of Father Boniface Hardin, a Benedictine monk best known as the founder of Martin University, Indiana’s only Predominantly Black Institution (PBI). The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) Press and Martin University recently announced the release of “Pickin’ Cotton on the Way to Church: The Life and Work of Father Boniface Hardin, OSB,” written by Dr. Nancy Van Note Chism.

736wPickinCottonThe book is about the life and work of Father Hardin, Martin University and their struggles and triumphs. It was one Father Hardin intended to write himself but “just ran out of time.” When Father Hardin shared this concern with Chism when he was ill, she committed to writing it for him. “Pickin’ Cotton on the Way to Church” is the title he intended to use for his autobiography—referring to his experience as an African American Catholic.

“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Chism for documenting this history,” said Dr. Sean Huddleston, president of Martin University. “When Dr. Chism began this project, she didn’t realize how little information was available about Father Hardin. She interviewed more than 40 people and those memories, commentaries and insights brought the biography to life.”

The resulting work takes readers along Father Hardin’s journey of being excluded from Kentucky seminaries because of his race, serving as associate pastor at Indianapolis’ Holy Angels Catholic Church, engaging in social activism, opening the Martin Center, founding Martin University with Sister Jane Schilling, and providing 30 years of leadership for an institution of higher education.

“Pickin’ Cotton on the Way to Church” is available through IHS’s  Basile History Market and other places books are sold. Those interested in further research can access the newly processed Father Boniface Hardin Collection at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.

About the Author

Dr. Nancy Van Note Chism currently is chair of the board of trustees of Martin University. She has published books, journal articles and chapters in her academic field. She moved to Indiana in 1999 and became Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs at Indiana University and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She retired in 2012.

About Martin University

Martin University is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts institution that prides itself in providing a student-centered environment. Founded in 1977 as Indiana’s only Predominantly Black Institution of higher education, the University offers both theoretical and applied learning experiences. Martin is steeped in a history of service and open to a diverse population of students while maintaining a unique focus on serving low-income, minority, and adult learners.

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