Dr. Donald Pitzer: Soaring into “New Harmony”

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Professor Emeritus, Dr. Donald Pitzer, received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Southern Indiana on April 29th, 2016.  Some would ask, why is this important? He is another gentleman receiving an honorary degree; however, Dr. Pitzer is not just another gentleman. He has an extensive history with the University of Southern Indiana. He taught history at USI from 1967 to 2007.


April 29th, 2016: USI President, Dr. Linda Bennett (left) giving Dr. Donald Pitzer (left) his honorary degree. [Photo Credit: Tonya Pitzer]

Dr. Pitzer’s academic career began at Wittenberg University.  He graduated in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in humanities.  He continued his education by receiving his master’s degree in 1962 and doctoral degree in 1966 in history from Ohio State University.  Dr. Pitzer joined USI, then known as Indiana State University Evansville (ISUE) at the Centennial School in 1967.  He became the History Department’s first chair in 1976 until 1998. While teaching, Dr. Pitzer was active in the bowling club, chess clubs, and supported the USI basketball teams.  During his tenure, he taught a variety of history courses from basic American History to Millennialism and Communal Studies from 1967 to 2007.


Dr. Donald Pitzer (center) at the groundbreaking ceremony of the future site of Indiana State University-Evansville, now as USI, in June 1967. [Photo Credits: University Archives and Special Collections]

Communal studies is the investigation of intentional communities around the world. Dr. Pitzer researched about the Harmonist and Owenite communities in New Harmony, Indiana for forty years. He became known as an expert in communal history and his theory of “developmental communalism”.  He’s traveled across the United States and overseas visiting countless religious and secular groups.  He was one of the original founders of the Communal Studies Association in 1975 and served as the first president until 1993.  Under his direction the Center for Communal Studies opened and he was director until his retirement in 2007.  Dr. Pitzer has left as everlasting legacy through his hard work and dedication on the University of Southern Indiana.

Today, the Communal Studies (CS) collection in the University Archives and Special Collection, in cooperation with the Center for Communal Studies, focuses on modern communes and cooperative living. Dr. Pitzer is still contributing to the collections as well as writing and presenting on communal topics. He helped the shape the future of education in Evansville and work in communal studies will stand the test of time.


“Unofficial” naming of the University Archives and Special Collection’s Communal Reading Room on April 29th, 2016. [Photo Credits: James Wethington]

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