Last week’s announcement that Franklin University is closing its Urbana University branch campus came with no information about what may become of the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund, the Johnny Appleseed Education Center & Museum or historical papers and memorabilia housed at UU, including papers concerning UU and the Swedenborgian Church.
The Johnny Appleseed center on campus is said to house the largest collection of memorabilia and information on John Chapman, the New Englander born in 1774 who headed west, planting apple seeds and spending time in Urbana with fellow followers of the Swedenborgian religion.
Asked about the future of the museum, both Urbana Univ./Franklin Univ. spokeswoman Sherry Mercurio and Johnny Appleseed Foundation chair Betsy Coffman said the first priority is to assist students and staff through this transition period, but that matters such as the Appleseed center will be addressed at a later time.
The Daily Citizen contacted the Champaign County Historical Society and the Champaign County Library to see whether either could be the next home for literature and artifacts now housed at UU.
Greg Harvey, Historical Society president, indicated on Monday that there was no news to report at this time.
Ty Henderson, director of the Champaign County Library, said he had not been contacted about this possibility, but that the library would be willing to house books and papers. He added that housing Appleseed center artifacts at the library would be more difficult.
The Daily Citizen also asked Urbana Mayor Bill Bean whether he had heard of any plans. He said he had not and hoped to meet with Dr. Christopher Washington, UU executive vice president and CEO, about the future of the UU campus.
A group on Facebook called “This Place Matters — Urbana University 2020+” has formed for people who wish to participate in the discussion about the history and future of the university. The direct link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/715019109035768/ and prospective joiners must apply and be approved.
Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund
Money in the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund already had been transferred from Franklin University to The Peoples Savings Bank, Urbana, to increase growth by the time the closing of UU was announced, according to Bev Titus, who with her husband, John, established the 501(c)3 nonprofit under the UU umbrella in 2002 following the death of their daughter Alicia, a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Titus said they are in the process of moving funds for a scholarship in their daughter’s name to Peoples and are in the process of establishing the Memorial Peace Fund as a nonprofit separate from Urbana and Franklin universities.
The Tituses say they will seek new partners and new sites for Peace Fund programs.
“We hope to continue doing everything we have been doing for the last several years,” Bev Titus said. “We’ve provided 70 programs for students and community members, which have reached thousands and thousands of members of our community.”
She said UU had committed to host and help sponsor eight programs that had been funded by the Peace Fund each year.
The programs include college students, public school students, the community and guest speakers, and they promote community service, communication, kindness and peace.
COVID-19 concerns already had cancelled or postponed some of this year’s programs, including the annual Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Run/Walk fundraiser, which honors first responders and those who have died from violence and war.
“Due to the coronavirus and the uncertainty with our community opening up and Urbana University closing, we won’t have a Peace Run in September,“ Titus said. “We will plan for 2021, the 20th anniversary of 9/11.”
For more information about the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund and the scholarship fund, contact the Tituses at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations to either fund can be mailed to The Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund, P.O. Box 107, Urbana, OH 43078.
See related letter from John and Bev Titus in today’s edition.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.