Editor’s note: This post is Part 9 of “Celebrating the People of Bloomington,” a special retrospective revisiting some of the stories Bloom has published since its inception in 2006. The details in these stories have not been changed since they were originally written, but we have provided updates when possible. Each story highlights an individual who contributed to making Bloomington a compassionate, diverse, and creative community. For more stories from “Celebrating the People of Bloomington,” click here.
Feisal Istrabadi: Iraqi Diplomat
It might be surprising to learn that Feisal Istrabadi, Iraq’s former deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, attended high school 6,538 miles away from Baghdad, at a place called Bloomington High School South. Now, he teaches at
Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. Istrabadi was born in the U.S. and has lived in the Midwest since Saddam Hussein’s rise to power drove the family back here.
Practicing law in Illinois, Istrabadi met Adnan Pachachi, the former Iraqi foreign minister. He helped Pachachi draft the provisional constitution for post-war Iraq. Istrabadi remains concerned about Iraq’s future.“Ultimately, my faith is in the people of Iraq, determined to rebuild and to never again be ruled by a tyrant.”
Istrabadi now also teaches at IU’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, where he’s the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East.
Gladys DeVane: Storyteller
It was on the family farm in Texas that Gladys DeVane fell in love with stories. Her Great-Grandpa Moses told them by the potbelly stove in his log cabin.
Years later, DeVane—now a clinical professor of communication in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the mother of three sons—discovered a story that had been brewing in her mind for decades and was ready to be written. She presented it in a dramatic reading at a local Toastmaster’s competition and won.
“I decided right then that when I retired I would do what I truly love—write and tell stories,” DeVane says.
Since retirement in 2003, DeVane has performed with the Bloomington Playwrights Project and Cardinal Stage and has written and performed in several plays about the black experience in Indiana.
Joe Bourne: Jazz DJ
Bloomington’s long-running Jazz Fables concert series hosted a special performance at Bear’s Place in April honoring the 25th anniversary of the WFIU-FM program Just You and Me and its creator, producer, and host, Joe Bourne. “It’s a great honor to be recognized by musicians I have so much respect for,” says Bourne, 64. “I’ve done my best to celebrate jazz.”
The program airs weekdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
To keep things fresh, Bourne says, he makes a point of playing not only the big band–era swing music he grew up listening to but also bebop and more contemporary jazz. He also interviews musicians.
“It’s about exploring not only the music,” Bourne says, “but also the fascinating artists that make it and their worlds.”
Alvin Rosenfeld: Anti-Semitism Scholar
As a child, Alvin Rosenfeld looked at pre-World War II photos of
his mother’s family in Russia and wondered what became of them. “Whenever I asked my parents about them, I never got any answers,” Rosenfeld says. “That silence stayed with me and got me thinking.” Today, his work stands against such silences. Rosenfeld founded and directs Indiana University’s new Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism. It is one of only two such institutes in the country.
“We need to study it to understand what motivates present-day violence against Jews and Jewish institutions,” Rosenfeld says. “Anti-Semitism threatens the Jews initially, but if left unchecked, it soon spreads its poisons through society as a whole. We need to do what we can to see that this doesn’t happen.”
Tom Roznowski’s New Book Reflects on a Lost Way of Life
For historian and musician Tom Roznowski, the journey to re-create what he calls “a real American hometown” began when he picked up a book about early 20th-century Terre Haute.
“Corner groceries, Labor Day parades, minor league baseball. … I thought, ‘This is idyllic. This is iconic,’” Roznowski says.
For nine subsequent years Roznowski wrote, produced, and hosted Hometown, a weekly WFIU-FM radio series exploring everyday life in 1920s and ’30s Terre Haute through interviews and research.
His 2009 IU Press book, An American Hometown: Terre Haute, Indiana, 1927, offers detailed narratives of real-life individuals and places. “These people did not lead famous lives. They did their jobs, and they raised their families. But if you can illuminate them a bit, they’re fascinating.”
Roznowski currently hosts Porchlight, a Saturday night program on WFIU.