Indiana State University Newsroom

‘A Way With Words’ sesquicentennial event to benefit Special Collections

October 25, 2017

A special sesquicentennial event at Indiana State University will celebrate two of its most distinctive treasures -- the Schick Lecture Series and the Cordell Collection of Dictionaries.

The Nov. 9 event will feature Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, the co-hosts of "A Way with Words," the popular National Public Radio show dedicated to examining language through history, culture and family.

"When considering a sesquicentennial activity for the library, it made sense to pull together these two unique aspects of our university which have a focus on lexicography. We felt Martha and Grant would be a great tie-in since their show deals with the evolution of language," said Robin Crumrin, dean of library services.

The Schick Lecture Series was created through a bequest from retired English faculty member Joseph S. Schick, who died in 1987. The series features lectures on literature, language and lexicography prior to 1900. Since 1988, the series has hosted more than 200 scholars from the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Canada. In addition to their formal lectures related to periods before 1900, the scholars also have presented informal talks on contemporary topics, conducted writers' workshops and visited literature classes.

"We have brought in such a wonderful range of speakers. They have been here from the University of Wales, Harvard, Oxford, Stanford and Princeton," said Robert Perrin, chair of the department of English. The lectures provide the faculty and students with an opportunity to learn and discuss ideas with eminent scholars that have included Marilyn French, Henry Louis Gates and Cleanth Brooks.

"Scholars from around the world are always amazed and a bit jealous that this series exists here at Indiana State University," he said.

The Cordell Collection began with a 1969 gift of 453 English dictionaries to Indiana State from Warren and Suzanne Cordell. Warren Cordell, an alumnus of Indiana State, continued to add to the collection over the years with multiple donations until his death in 1980. In total, he donated 3,232 editions and variants totaling 3,913 volumes. Today, the collection houses more than 30,000 volumes.

"Although it started out relatively small, the Cordell Collection has become the largest and arguably the most important collection of dictionaries at a single university in the world," said Michael Adams, provost professor of English and literature at Indiana University and past president of the Dictionary Society of North America. Cordell was the first president of the Dictionary Society of North America, which was established in Terre Haute.

"People in Italy, Poland, Great Britain, Canada and other countries know about Terre Haute and ISU because the Cordell Collection is here. It does in a sense bring the world to ISU, and also opens up ISU to the world," Adams said.

The dinner is a fundraiser for the Special Collections area of Indiana State's Cunningham Memorial Library. Tables of eight for the event are available at $800 with individual tickets at $100. Donors may also sponsor student tickets at $50 each or $400 for a table of eight. To purchase tickets, go to

The reception starts at 5:30 p.m., with dinner following at 6:30 p.m.

Indiana State is in the midst of its Sesquicentennial Era Celebration which began in 2015, the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Indiana State Normal School, and will conclude in 2020, the 150th anniversary of its opening.


Photo: - A painting of Warren and Suzanne Cordell is seen.

Media contact: Libby Roerig, director of communications and media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

The Nov. 9 event will feature Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, the co-hosts of "A Way with Words," the popular National Public Radio show dedicated to examining language through history, culture and family.

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