Carlisle Indian School Alumni Department

When asked what was the key to his success at Carlisle Indian School, Pop Warner famously answered that it was the absence of alumni. While this statement is not literally true, it is correct in the context in which it was made. Of course Carlisle had alumni, but what it didn’t have were alumni associations, major alumni donors and influential alumni with the ability to influence the direction of the athletic department. Warner was thus able to run the football team the way he saw fit. He didn’t have to deal with alumni interference as he had at Cornell. He felt blessed by its absence.

One of the changes that took place after the 1914 congressional investigation of Carlisle was the formation of an Alumni Department. Reorganization may be a more accurate word, but any previous organization may have had so few resources that it was barely active. After the dust settled on the changes made following the investigation, the building that formerly housed the Native Art Department was given to the Alumni Department for its home. A curriculum change a couple of years prior had eliminated the Native Art Department but had not reassigned the building. Lone Star Dietz had been reassigned to teach mechanical drawing and Angel DeCora had a sinecure. The building that still stands on Carlisle Barracks opposite Pop Warner’s home just inside the former entrance to the school had become a hangout for students and was apparently not being put to a constructive use. The alumni Department quickly ordered a large pennant for each of the graduating classes to that time and hung them around the walls. Student crafts were removed from the building and replaced with souvenirs purchased in New York.

The Alumni Department was allocated a few pages in each issue of The Red Man, Carlisle’s monthly literary journal. The Masthead for that section is shown below. The reason I thought about the Alumni Department is that I recently received a phone call from a local collector who had just purchased a plate from the Carlisle Alumni Department at a sale. He wasn’t sure that it was legitimate but took a small gamble and bought it. I haven’t seen it yet but his verbal description sounds familiar to the artwork on the masthead.

Alumni Dept masthead

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