Rolland Eckels: The Man, The Legend, The Memory

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

Left to Right: David L. Rice, Betty Rice, Rolland Eckels, and Edith Bates, November 1980. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, UP 5364

On July 2, the USI community lost a profound leader and advocate for this prodigious state institution. Eckels supported the founding of the university as Indiana State University-Evansville and their independence from Indiana State University, which was finally achieved in 1985.

Eckels was a lifelong Evansville native, born on May 6, 1924. He served in World War 2 in the United States Air Corps, now, Air Force (Browning Genealogy, n.d.; Martin, 2017). Eckels served on numerous boards such as the Southern Indiana Higher Education, Inc. (SIHE) for forty years and President’s Associates. SIHE created a fundraiser in 1967 to purchase land; moreover, with over $1 million ($7 million in 2017) to the purchase of 1,400 acres of land where USI currently is located (O’Nan, 2017).

Roland Eckels, left, looking at an oversize book, n.d. Source: University Archives and Special Collections (UP 12345)

He served on numerous local community boards such as the Mead Johnson Foundation, Rotary Club, Deaconess Hospital, State War Memorial Commission, Tri-State Food Bank, Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library (EVPL), and many more; however, he was a lifetime member of the VFW Post 1114 and was a 33rd Degree Mason (Browning Genealogy, n.d.).

Without Eckels, there would not be a University of Southern Indiana. Through this university, his legacy will live on forever through his countless contributions. Thank you Rolland for all of your hard work.


Browning Genealogy Database. (n.d.) Eckels, Rolland M. Retrieved from

Martin, J. T. (4, July 2017). Rolland Eckels remembered as champion of USI, Evansville community. Retrieved from

O’Nan, A. (2017, June 14). Eckels’ legacy lives on at USI. Retrieved from