RIP Bill Wiggins, professor emeritus of African-American Studies at Indiana University.

Retired IU professor William Wiggins Jr. dies at 82
By Jonathan Streetman jstreetman@heraldt.com Dec 25, 2016

> Bill Wiggins, professor emeritus of African-American Studies at Indiana University.

> Retired IU professor William Wiggins Jr. dies at 82
>
> Indiana University professor emeritus and former Herald-Times community columnist William H. Wiggins Jr. died at 3:40 a.m. Saturday at IU Health Hospice House at the age of 82, following an extended illness.
>
> Wiggins arrived in Bloomington in 1969 with his wife, Janice, and 3-year-old daughter, Mary Ellen, to enter the doctoral program in IU’s Folklore Institute. His arrival could not have been more timely.
>
> Wiggins became one of the original faculty members for the university’s African-American studies department and quickly became a stalwart presence in the department, collaborating with Rozelle Boyd, then dean of University Division, and history graduate student John F. Moe to develop the A150 Survey of the Culture of Black Americans, a course that remains the basic introduction to the department’s curriculum. Wiggins also created another course that remains a staple offering, A255 The Black Church in America.
>
> “It’s sad to say, that there is still a perception by some prospective students, as well as alumni, that IU has not been an optimal place for minority students,” Wiggins was quoted as saying in a university news article celebrating his 30 years with the department. “When potential students raise the topic with me, I ask these questions: ‘Is there any place in America which is free of racism? And is it possible to achieve anything worthwhile without undergoing some risk?’
>
> “The department has helped create a welcoming — dare I say nurturing — atmosphere for students with its film showings, lectures, essay contests and by providing students with ready access to understanding faculty who will hear them out and help them in myriad ways.”
>
> Wiggins retired from the university in 2003 after 34 years of teaching. At his retirement party at IU’s Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, Wiggins told about 100 people that “It’s been a wonderful experience.”
>
> University of Oregon professor of political science Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh recently remembered Wiggins as an excellent professor and a great scholar, but also a profoundly intelligent family man who always was welcoming of others.
>
> “I met Dr. William H. Wiggins Jr. during my first year (in 1994) as an assistant professor on the Bloomington campus,” Alex-Assensoh said in an email this past July. “I left Indiana University in 2012 as a full professor of political science and, for five years, as dean of the Office of Women’s Affairs, and most certainly, I attribute a lot of my successes to the advisory and fatherly roles that professor Wiggins played in our lives as young and upcoming black professors. …
>
> “What was most impressionistic about Dr. Wiggins was his overwhelming love for his family and the Indiana University community. For Dr. Wiggins, love was an action word that inspired him to serve, encourage and inspire a deeper commitment to excellence and caring for one’s fellow man.”
>
> Wiggins shared his love for Bloomington through columns in The Herald-Times, writing more than 50 over the course of two years. The setting for his columns was “Wiggy’s Diner, Bloomington’s first literary restaurant,” where he wrote about everything from holiday parties to why his childhood birthdays after the age of 5 were celebrated with a watermelon instead of a birthday cake. It was because of a racist remark from a Texas watermelon farmer that, thanks to his parents’ love and care, marked the beginning of his realization of self-worth. “From that day forward, they redoubled their efforts to instill in me the lesson that I, their first born child, was not a Sambo, the unkempt, ignorant, immoral, childlike human being depicted in cover sketches and lyrics of boxes of coon song sheet music in the Lilly Library’s song sheet collection or the ‘Little Black Sambo’ children’s book in its rare books collection,” he wrote in August of 2003.
>
> Wiggins’ family will finalize funeral arrangements at Allen Funeral Home and Crematory early this week, according to the Bloomington funeral home.

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