Historic Eleutherian College was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997. Efforts are under way to bring attention to the college ... the first in Indiana to admit students regardless of their race or gender. (Courier file photo)
Historic Eleutherian College was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997. Efforts are under way to bring attention to the college ... the first in Indiana to admit students regardless of their race or gender. (Courier file photo)
A new board of directors is in place and classes and events are planned, as Historic Eleutherian College, Inc. works to re-energize interest in one of Indiana's National Historic Landmarks.

Since achieving the national recognition, the board has started a new membership group, set up programing for the campus, organized an annual fall festival, implemented a maintenance program for the campus, moved some original wood pieces back into their proper space in the house, created a new brochure and began developing a web presence.

Plans include a portable educational exhibit and a play about Sarah and John Tibbets and the Underground Railroad premiering July 8. Also, a member of the National Park Service will present a program on the trail of freedom on July 20.

"She (the member of the National Parks Service) has done a good deal of studying of local communities of predominately free blacks and their role in the Underground Railroad," board president Larry DeBuhr said.

Board members are also hopeful that the site will become an attraction for school field trips.

DeBuhr said the function of Historic Eleutherian College is to help tell the story of the Underground Railroad and the roles that Madison, Lancaster and the college played. "..And, also, to help preserve the historic structures that are part of that community," he said.

DeBuhr is also executive director of the Rivers Institute at Hanover College. BeBuhr and David Harden - director of experiential learning at Hanover College - are hoping the three organizations can work together.

"From the Rivers Institute standpoint the Ohio River is obviously a very important borderline between free and slave states. In getting across the river it led many slaves to freedom, although it didn't necessarily mean they wouldn't be recaptured," DeBuhr said. "There's also a connection that the Rivers Institute has done a good deal of community relations and working in the community, so it fits the Rivers Institute programmatically that way."

Harden said he joined the board because several students had interned at Eleutherian College and wanted to make sure the relationship between the two colleges was strong. He is hoping that Hanover will be able to utilize the land for classes that want to offer a hands-on learning experience.

"One of my key reasons of being on the board, even though I love Eleutherian and I love what it stands for, is to make sure that I can get students doing stuff out there," Harden said. "One class that I've been working with, one professor is our archaeology professor. He's teaching an archaeology class this semester and he's going to be taking field trips out there this semester, when it gets warmer probably, where he'll be able to say 'This is what we've been talking about in class. This is how you do it.'"

Harden is also trying to get some of Hanover's May term classes next year involved and using the property. He is also trying to develop an anthropology class that would be taught on Eleutherian's campus.

The board is still working on plans. DeBuhr said he's hoping to have more of Eleutherian's loan paid off in the near future, an expanded donor base, make progress on restoring the inside of the main building and a large group of people willing to volunteer to give tours.