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The Man Behind the Gates

Aerial view of IU Bloomington's Sample Gates on a fall day
IU Bloomington's iconic Sample Gates became a gateway to campus in 1987. Photo by James Brosher.

Edson W. Sample, MS’71, who funded one of IU Bloomington’s most cherished landmarks—the Sample Gates—died in early December 2022. Born in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 7, 1934, his IU legacy remains one of outstanding professional service and generous philanthropy.

“Ed’s commitment to students by ensuring equity of support [through scholarships and financial aid] was truly his paramount objective,” says Curt Simic, BS’64, LHD’16, president emeritus of the IU Foundation.

Sample first arrived on the Bloomington campus in 1958. A few years later, he took a job in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, where he developed a passion for helping students achieve their college dreams, regardless of their financial circumstances. His talent for administration marked him as a leader. He was named director of the office in 1968 while still a graduate student in the School of Education, from which he earned his master’s degree in 1971.

“He really focused on the holistic success of students, ensuring that scholarships were created and awarded in a way that would have the greatest impact and serve best the students who needed the support,” Simic says.

Edson Sample standing in front of the Sample Gates
Edson Sample, MS’71, funded the Sample Gates project in honor of his parents, Louise Waite Sample and Kimsey Ownbey Sample Sr. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

Throughout his career, Sample was in high demand as an expert in financial aid administration. In the late 1960s, he helped found the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, which now serves nearly 3,000 institutions. On the organization’s website, he is remembered as a “tireless advocate” who was “paramount in engaging a new generation of leaders.” He received numerous honors for his service to the field, including NASFAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the mid-1980s, a major gift from Sample funded the construction of the now iconic limestone gates at the Kirkwood Avenue entrance to campus. In keeping with his reputation for modesty, he arranged for the gates to be named and dedicated to his parents, Louise Waite Sample and Kimsey Ownbey Sample Sr. Both were present at the dedication ceremony on June 13, 1987.

Sample retired in 1990 but remained active and engaged in campus life. In 2018, he made a second major gift; it was for the construction of the IU Excellence Academy, which houses innovative programs to support the lifelong health and well-being of IU student-athletes.

He received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Education in 2017; in 2020, Sample received one of IU’s most prestigious honors—the Bicentennial Medal—in recognition of his service and longstanding support of the university.

Day or night, the Sample Gates are always open, welcoming all into IU’s historic Old Crescent. One might imagine them as a symbol of Sample’s lifelong quest—to keep the gates of higher education wide open for all.

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Written By

Deborah Galyan

Deborah Galyan, BA’77, is a freelance writer. She served as executive director of communications and marketing for the IU College of Arts and Sciences from 2012 to 2022.

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