20 IU Firsts

20 IU Firsts

Since 1820, Indiana University faculty, staff, students, and alumni have been making their mark on the world. Here we celebrate some of IU’s greatest game-changers.

Kappa Alpha Psi, the first incorporated Black fraternity in the United States, was founded by Elder Watson Diggs, AB’16, Byron Kenneth Armstrong, AB’13, and eight other IU students in 1911.

A sepia-toned photograph of a group of Black men and women standing in three rows on the porch of a house. The people in the front row hold a large "Indiana" pennant.
First annual house party of Kappa Alpha Nu (later renamed Kappa Alpha Psi) at IU, May 1911. It is believed that the man seated behind the “D-I” in the banner is fraternity co-founder Elder Watson Diggs. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

IU launched the nation’s first degree-granting program in folklore in 1948.

IU scientists Joseph Muhler, DDS’48, PhD’51, William Nebergall, and Harry Day developed the first formula for fluoride toothpaste. You may know it as Crest, first sold in 1956.

The world’s first echocardiogram as we know it today was performed at Indiana University in 1963 by IU alumnus and professor Harvey Feigenbaum, AB’55, MD’58.

IU Jacobs School of Music students were the first university company to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. (1981)

Black-and-white photo of seven college students in early 1980s garb, standing on steps in front of a building with a glass facade.

Students in front of the Metropolitan Opera House. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

IU’s Black Film Center/Archive was established in 1981 as the first archival repository dedicated to culturally significant films by and about Black people.

In 1984, the IU School of Medicine established the world’s first DNA bank, to store individual and family DNA samples for future genetic testing and potential treatment.

IU School of Medicine Professor Hal Broxmeyer performed the first umbilical cord blood transplant, which cured a patient with Fanconi anemia in 1988.

IU is home to the United States’ first PhD program in gender studies, founded in 2006.

In 2007, the world’s first healthy breast tissue bank was established at the IU Simon Cancer Center on IUPUI’s campus, thanks to a $1M donation from Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

IUPUI was the first to offer a bachelor’s degree in motorsports engineering, established in 2008.

Close up on the nose of a race car. The body is maroon with a large number 37 on it and the IUPUI Jaguars logo.
Car constructed by students in IUPUI’s motorsports program. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University.

In 2009, Professor Elinor Ostrom became the first woman awarded the Nobel Prize in economics.

Established at IUPUI in 2012, the Lilly Family School is the world’s first school of philanthropy.

The IU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Others Alumni Association launched the nation’s first scholarship campaign devoted specifically to assisting LGBTQ+ students in 2013.

IU Athletics developed the first Student-Athlete Bill of Rights in 2014.

Venus Williams, BS’15, was the first to graduate through IU East’s partner program with the Women’s Tennis Association.

Venus Williams, a tall Black woman wearing a graduation cap with tassel, black graduation robe with red stoll, and holding a red diploma holder. On either side of her are an older white woman and older white man wearing academic regalia.
Venus Williams (center) visits the IU East campus in Richmond, Ind., to accept her diploma in 2015. Photo courtesy of IU East.

IU was the first school in the country to broadcast all home basketball games in Mandarin and all home soccer matches in Spanish.

The Natatorium at IUPUI was the first zero-waste athletic facility in Indiana and, in 2016, hosted the first Olympic event to receive the zero-waste designation.

Overhead view of a nine-lane pool. Fans fill the stands to the right and left of the pool.
NCAA swimming competition at the Natatorium, 2017. Photo by Liz Kaye, IUPUI.

In 2019, the Queer Philanthropy Circle was established at IU, one of the first LGBTQ+ focused giving circles connected to higher education in the nation.

3,377 members of IU’s 2020 bicentennial class were the first in their family to graduate from college.

This article was originally published in the fall 2020 issue of Imagine magazine.

Written By
Andrea Alumbaugh
A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.