Illinois State University’s library namesake, Angeline (Ange) Vernon Milner would be celebrating her 165th birthday on April 9. This year, her birthday coincides with both National Library Week and Illinois State University’s first-ever Spring Homecoming! This alignment is fitting given Milner’s deep commitment to librarianship and devotion to the campus. In our climate of social distancing, rather than sharing a piece of birthday cake together, we offer up slices of her past reflecting her affection for students that they reciprocated to their Aunt Ange.
In October 1921—100 years ago this fall when the University held its first Homecoming—Ange Milner took advantage of the inaugural event by welcoming alumni into the library with a reception showcasing students’ coursework. She continued and expanded the tradition in subsequent Homecomings. As a testament to her school spirit, she was designated the Guest of Honor during the 1927 Homecoming, the last Milner would witness. Over her 38 year career (1890–1928), Milner regularly used the library as a social center to host exhibitions, receptions, and other events—even when it meant lifting her rules of quiet “allowing people to talk and visit at will.”
Milner’s interests extended beyond the walls of the library. Students recounted her “splendid ‘pep’ talks” at rallies. She closed the library during homecoming football games and was known for attending athletic events. Described as indefatigable, Milner remained when the rain chased other spectators away.
She opened up her home to students, stating “I have noticed that nothing else appeals to the heart of a Normal student as does something good to eat.” She hosted larger parties, too, with cake, ice cream, games, music, and dancing. At one costume party, she asked all guests to dress to represent a book! (What book would you be?) Students invited her to their parties, too, and in 1920 they held a birthday party for her. Humbled by this gesture, she wrote a poem expressing her gratitude to them.
Helping outside the Classroom
Ange Milner took students’ participation in their social organizations seriously. Members of the debating and literary societies appreciated her assistance so much they bestowed honorary memberships to her. She worked alongside students creating the yearbook (The Index) and writing columns for the student newspaper (The Vidette). One of the student editors praised her for not missing deadlines!
Welcome to Your Library
As we wait for a return to more normal times, we celebrate Ange in a library where her presence is still felt today through our student-centered services. Though a century divides our library from hers, our values continue to align with her ideals. Wherever you are, we welcome you just as she would have. Please reach out to us! The sentiment in Milner’s 1891 stanza still stands:
Happy Birthday, Ange! Visit ISURed to learn more about Ange’s Legacy.