Collection ID: C168
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Collection context


Beck, Frank Orman.
Retiring from long careers in urban ministry and social work in 1934, Indiana University alumni Frank O. Beck and his wife Daisy returned to their alma mater to serve as unofficial counselors to the student body and the administration. Collection consists of correspondence, research, publications, biographical material, and records relating to their gift of Beck Chapel. Prominent in the collection are Frank's research and writing on race relations, aging, and social and economic equality in Chicago.
9.6 cubic feet (11 boxes)
Materials are in English
Preferred citation:

[Item], Frank O. and Daisy Beck papers, Collection C168, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.


Scope and Content:

The Frank O. and Daisy Beck papers span the period 1890-1969, with the bulk of the records created in the years 1910-1969. The collection is organized into five series: Biographical materials, Publications and research, Indiana University, Professional associations and activities, and Correspondence.

The Biographical materials (1899-1966) contain documents related to Frank and Daisy's personal life such as biographical clippings, a notebook from Frank's study at Harvard University, a dairy Daisy kept during travels through Europe, and of particular note a family genealogical manuscript tracing the lineage of Col. John Ketcham, one of the original IU Trustees.

In the second series Publications and research (1890-1967), Daisy and Frank Beck's publications are divided into two separate sub-series. Those of Daisy Beck's (1911-1962) consist of published copies of articles, manuscripts, related correspondence and reviews. Of particular note here is "Once Over Lightly: An Indiana University Story" a humorous collection of historical stories tracing the early development of Indiana University. The second sub-series consists of Frank Beck's publications and research (1890-1967) and consists primarily of correspondence, manuscripts, and copies of three of his published books – My Home Town (1958), Hobohemia (1957),and Some Aspects of Race Relations at Indiana University (1962). This sub-series also contain numerous research related subject files which contain collected newspaper clippings, newsletters and pamphlets on a variety of subjects, and research notes, possibly for his sermons or publications. A large amount of material here, relates to his research on aging and on the rights of the elderly, as well as on civil rights and race relations.

The Indiana University (1919-1967) series is further organized into two subseries. The first, Beck Chapel (1944-1967), consists of materials documenting Frank and Daisy Beck's involvement in gaining approval for the construction and design of the chapel on the campus and for the mission of the chapel as a symbol of religious unity. Of particular interest here are correspondence and drawings and specifications relating to the architectural design of the chapel as well as a scrapbook documenting the early years of the chapels existence. The second sub-series, General (1919-1961), contains files documenting Frank Beck's involvement on the university campus in various capacities. Of particular note here are files relating to his involvement as an advisor with the various religious entities on campus, such as the University Committee on Religion and the Student Religious Cabinet. Others records document Beck's involvement with the Student Government Committee, a predecessor to the official organization of student government; the Town Hall Club, a student organization which sought to bring social and political problems up for discussion in public forums; and the Student Refugee Committee which sought to sponsor European WWII refugees so that I might attend Indiana University. Topical files of interest include those on the Japanese Student Relocation in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor as well as the Chicago Reconciliation trips for university students which sought to broaden understanding between those of different races and nationalities.

The Professional associations and activities (1916-1969) series consists of those records pertaining to Frank Beck's activities outside of Indiana University. These include files relating to Beck's interest in aging such as participation in the Borrowed Time Club, the Indiana State Commission on the Aged and the Aging, and the Indiana School of Religion, as well as his tenure as Director of the Chicago Reconciliation Tours.

Finally, the Correspondence series (1899-1967) primarily consists of personal correspondence with family members and Frank Beck's former students at Indiana University. In reference to family members, of particular note is correspondence with Willard and Minnie Beck and Lois Lucile Cook who were also actively involved in the ministry of the Methodist Church. Correspondence with students focused mostly upon their lives following the university as well as how their involvement with the Student Religious Cabinet impacted their future endeavors and their outlook upon their surrounding communities. Other notable correspondents include numerous former students who were deployed stateside and overseas during the Second World War, including Christmas cards from Saul J. Abraham while stationed in Hawaii, a letter from Robert and Meg Dyer in October 1945 which poignantly describes the celebrations in a small northern town in Wisconsin the day that the war ended, and from David Griggs and Albert Losche who describe the post-war occupation of Germany.

Biographical / Historical:

Born July 18, 1872 on a farm near Germantown (Wayne County, Indiana), Frank Orman Beck came to Indiana University as a student in 1890, receiving his A.B. in 1894 and A.M. in 1895 both in comparative literature. As an undergraduate he wrote a series of editorials in The Indiana Daily Student which were instrumental in the organization of the Arbutus yearbook which began in 1894. He was a charter member (1892) of the university's chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity, and secretary for the YMCA.

While teaching part-time his senior year at Bloomington High School, he met then student Daisy Woodward– a native of Monroe County and direct descendent of Colonel John Ketcham, one of the original IU trustees. The two married on July 23, 1899 shortly after she received her A.B. degree from the University. That fall the two moved to Boston, where she attended the New England Conservatory of Music and he Boston and Harvard Universities. He later went on earn a theology degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Edinburgh University in Scotland.

Upon their return to the United States in 1912, the Becks settled in Chicago where Frank spent over 25 years serving as a teacher, minister, and social worker. He served as a professor at the Garrett Biblical Institute of Northwestern University, minister of the Wabash Avenue Methodist Church in the infamous First Ward on the fringe of The Loop, the first survey director for the Chicago Welfare department, the executive secretary of the Chicago Inter-Church World Movement and worked with Jane Adams in Hull House and in the missions along "Skid Row." Drawing from each of these experiences, in 1956 he published the book Hobohemia.

Retiring in 1934, Frank and Daisy returned to their alma mater where neither held official positions at the university, but rather served as unofficial counselors to the student body and the administration. In 1937, at the request of President Wells, Frank Beck began work to organize what would become the University Committee on Religion which consisted of representatives from various religious faiths and sought to ease prejudice with tolerance and understanding. The related Student Religious Cabinet formed shortly thereafter. As the programs grew, the Beck's began a nearly twenty year campaign to build a place of worship on campus for those of all faiths, and in 1957 thanks in large part to their own donation Beck Chapel was dedicated. The chapel houses the symbols of the Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim faiths. Until his death, Frank served as the chapel Curator, presiding over the weddings of numerous students.

While working with Indiana University's religious programs, Beck was also extensively involved with community concerns such as issues effecting the elderly and race relations. Beck founded the Borrowed Time Club for senior citizens in 1949 which sought to combat the widely accepted notion of the social uselessness of the elderly, and was the first chair of the State Commission on the Aged and the Aging. In 1965 Beck was recognized by the state of Indiana for his work on behalf of senior citizens. In 1959 following on the path of his previous work for social and racial equality in Chicago, Beck published "Some Aspects of Race Relations at Indiana University."

Frank preceded his wife in death on August 17, 1968, at the age of 96, and she followed nearly four years later on April 24, 1972 at the age of 95.

Acquisition information:
Accession Information: 0814, 0886
Processing information:

Processed by Carrie Schwier.

Completed in 2011

Updated by Kate Duneman in 2018


The collection is organized into five series: Biographical materials, Publications and research, Indiana University, Professional associations and activities, and Correspondence.



Collection is open for research. Advance notice required for access.


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[Item], Frank O. and Daisy Beck papers, Collection C168, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington.

Indiana University Bloomington
Herman B Wells Library E460
1320 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405-7000, United States
Indiana University Bloomington