History professor surprised by Sagamore of the Wabash award


Photo courtesy Carl Kramer (right) stands with Indiana State Senator Jim Smith (left). Smith surprised Kramer with the award during Kramer’s US history class.

Joel Stinnett

Photo courtesy Carl Kramer (right) stands with Indiana State Senator Jim Smith (left). Smith surprised Kramer with the award during Kramer's US history class.
Photo courtesy
Carl Kramer (right) stands with Indiana State Senator Jim Smith (left). Smith surprised Kramer with the Sagamore of the Wabash award during Kramer’s US history class.

Carl Kramer, adjunct assistant professor of history, began his US history class planning to lecture as usual.  Those plans changed when Indiana State Senator Jim Smith unexpectedly walked in the door and interrupted the instructor of 34 years.

“You could tell he wasn’t sure what was about to happen,” said Ken Miller, history graduate student.                .

What was about to happen was an award ceremony.

Senator Smith along with Joe Wert, Dean of the School of Social Sciences; a group of IUS administrators; and Kram

er’s wife, Mary Kagin Kramer, were in Crestview Hall to present Kramer with the Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest honor the Governor of Indiana can bestow.

The Sagamore of the Wabash award was created during the term of Governor Ralph Gates, who served from 1945 to 1949. THe award has been given to astronauts, politicians, musicians and ordinary citizens.

Kramer has written almost a dozen books, most of which relate to the Kentuckiana area. Miller, a retired high school teacher and student of Kramer’s, checked out one of Kramer’s books from the library this past August. Kramer compiled the book, “This Place We Call Home: A History of Clark County, Indiana,” with his wife.

Miller was impressed by Kramer’s dedication to his investigation and depth of analysis.

“Its kind of like being a long-distance runner to do that much research,” Miller said. “For most of the race, no one cares or sees you, except maybe a few people at the finish line.”

Miller decided to call his state senator and nominate Kramer for the Sagamore of the Wabash award after finishing the book.

“He created a book that enriches every Hoosier,” Miller said.

Kramer’s journey to the Wabash award began in 1980 when he graduated from the University of Toledo with a degree in American History.  Already teaching as an adjunct, he had hoped to land a job as a full-time history instructor and one day gain tenure, but there were no position available. That’s when he decided to form his own public history consulting firm.

“If I was going to live a life of professorial insecurity,” said Kramer, “I was going to do it on my own terms.”

After his wife retired from the Red Cross and assumed the role of president, Kramer’s firm, renamed Kramer Associates, Inc. in 1997, has performed historical research for non-profit organizations, national registries and more recently, Whiskey Row in Louisville.

“My students benefit from the synergy that occurs between my public work and my academic,” Kramer said.

Kramer has also been the executive director of the Clark County Planning, Zoning and Building Commission, served on the Ohio River Major Investment Study committee – which recommended the Ohio River Bridges Project – and was director of the Institute for Local and Oral History.

When Senator Smith finished reading Kramer’s accomplishments and presented him with the award, the students gave their professor a standing ovation.

“Anybody that sits down in that room realizes what an authority on local history you are listening to,” Miller said.

For now, the award sits unframed in Kramer’s home. However, he does have a spot reserved next to his Indiana Distinguished Citizen award he received last year.

Kramer said the award is a validations of his life’s work and a validation of combining both the academic and public sides of history.

“We are all called to a vocation,” Kramer said, “My vocation is to be a history professor and a historian.”