Editor’s note: This post is Part 18 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.
Tomi Allison: Former Bloomington Mayor
Bloomington’s first elected woman mayor, Tomilea “Tomi” Allison, oversaw a period of unprecedented collaboration resulting in an impressive city growth policy plan, improved roads, additional fire stations, new parks, curbside recycling, and the repurposing of the Showers Brothers Furniture Factory into a new City Hall and research park.
Allison’s first foray into Bloomington public life included co-founding the local chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and working for the nonpartisan group Citizens for Good Government. She served as mayor from 1983 to 1995.
“I worked with Republicans all the way through,” says Allison, a Democrat. “I’d deal with them straightforward, and I would not surprise them or try to undercut them. … We worked back and forth.”
Jenny Yang: A Life Filled with Music, Tai Chi, and Mahjong
Growing up in Taiwan, Jenny Yang, 72, wanted to be a musician. “I was a piano major. I practiced very hard for many years,” she says. But her hopes were dashed years ago—she was not prepared for study at the Indiana University School of Music. Resilient, she discovered tai chi and mahjong.
Jenny, her husband, James, and their three children came to Bloomington in 1974 when James began doctoral work. In 1985, James returned to Taiwan to teach. Jenny, meanwhile, discovered tai chi. She practiced for several years here then began to teach others.
“The art is so deep it can never end,” Yang says. “Even now, I find something new, something to improve.”
Her other great love is mahjong. She says, “Tai chi is for health. Mahjong is for the spirit.”
William R. Morris aka Brother William
William R. Morris Jr. is a civil rights attorney for Indiana Legal Services and in private practice. He is also an active volunteer who has served the Bloomington Human Rights Commission, the Monroe County branch of the NAACP, and Big Brother Big Sisters of South Central Indiana. But Morris is most widely recognized as Brother William, Friday host of WFIU-FM’s Just You and Me, a weekday afternoon jazz broadcast that under Morris’ deejaying becomes an eclectic mix that he calls the “Soul Kitchen.”
Raised in South Bend, Indiana, he moved around the country and the world before settling in Bloomington a decade ago. “From the time I got here, I felt like I was home,” Morris says.
Sue Talbot: Education Leader
It’s been an unexpected ride for a Bloomington girl whose father worked as the projectionist at the Indiana Theater for 65 years. Sue Talbot has been among Bloomington’s foremost education advocates, beginning as a first grade teacher, serving in the governor’s office, and as an elected member of the Indiana University Board of Trustees.
Talbot knew she wanted to become a teacher from early on and, after graduating from IU, taught at Arlington Heights and University elementary schools.
“I’ve had a funny career. I was going to move to the suburbs, have a dog and a couple of kids, and I would have been happy with that,” Talbot says with a grin.
Gayle Cook: Businesswoman, Preservationist, Philanthropist
Gayle Cook’s imprint on Bloomington through business, philanthropy, and historic preservation is everywhere. She and her husband, Bill, were creators of Cook Group Inc., a global medical devices developer and manufacturer. Bill died in 2011, but Gayle continues to focus on historic preservation and philanthropy.
The Cooks launched a renovation renaissance in Bloomington with projects that include Graham Plaza, the Showers Plaza/City Hall complex, Fountain Square Mall, and more. She co-founded Bloomington Restorations Inc. and the Monroe County Historical Society
Museum and served as a member of the Monroe County Courthouse building and grounds committee.
The Cooks have also supported Gayle’s alma mater, Indiana University, and were the primary benefactors of Cook Hall, the basketball practice facility located next to Assembly Hall.
Cheryl Nichoalds: Tivoli Fashions and Jewelry
An original tenant in Fountain Square Mall, Cheryl Nichoalds opened Tivoli Fashions, featuring classic women’s
apparel, in 1987. In 2003, her husband, David, knocked a hole in a wall, making way for Tivoli Jewelry.
Cheryl’s emphasis is on career, casual, and special-occasion clothing, featuring brands such as Geiger, Pendleton, and Eileen Fisher. “I try not to buy things that are too trendy but still influenced by what’s going on,” she says. “I can put together a wardrobe that suits a customer’s body type, personality, and lifestyle. I’ve honed my skills.”
David A. Brenneman: New Director of IU Art Museum
David A. Brenneman, 51, the new director of the Indiana University Art Museum, is passionate about the power of the arts. “Great art reminds us of the great things that human beings are capable of, that art is essential to a great quality of life,” he says.
As former director of collections and exhibitions at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, Brenneman took part in the Louvre Atlanta project, mounting seven exhibitions of 500 works from France’s famed museum.
“It was really important to be the director of a museum with a really fantastic collection,” says Brenneman. “The IU Art Museum is both encyclopedic and universal, from ancient to modern to global in terms of its reach.”