Gladys DeVane. Photo by Shannon Zahnle


Gladys DeVane’s contributions to Bloomington could fill volumes. Educator, community activist, storyteller, and actress are just a few of the roles she has played during her nearly 50 years here.

On February 25, DeVane was honored as the 2012 City of Bloomington Black History Month Living Legend. An equally prestigious award was bestowed upon her on March 12, when the Bloomington Commission on the Status of Women presented her with the 2012 Lifetime Contribution Award during Women’s History Month.

DeVane arrived in Bloomington in 1963 to pursue a master’s degree in speech and hearing sciences at Indiana University. “I was offered a job upon completion of my degree and somehow I just never left. I love Bloomington,” she explains.

That love translated into actions that improved the quality of life in the community in myriad ways. In 1982, she and her husband, Gene, helped found Options for Better Living, now called LifeDesigns, an organization that creates opportunities and fosters inclusion for individuals with disabilities in Monroe and surrounding counties. After retirement from a joint appointment at IU’s department of speech and hearing and the Kelley School of Business, DeVane threw her creative energy into community theater and has performed as an actress and storyteller in many local productions. She is a board member of the Bloomington Playwrights Project and a volunteer at the Shalom Community Center.

One of DeVane’s most significant contributions is serving as a role model to young African Americans, says Beverly Calender-Anderson, director of Bloomington’s Safe and Civil City Program and Black History Month organizer. “Gladys exemplifies what the Living Legend award is about—setting an example for the younger generation through a lifetime of community service. It is especially important that stories like hers continue to be told in a transient community like Bloomington.”

In tandem with DeVane’s Living Legend award, the city’s Commission on the Status of Black Males recognized two Bloomington students. Myles Adams, a junior at Bloomington High School North, received the 2012 Outstanding Black Male Leader of Tomorrow award in the under 18 category. He is a member of both the National Honor Society and the student council and volunteers with the Community Kitchen of Monroe County, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, and several other nonprofit organizations. Aaron J. Barnes, an IU senior, received the award in the age 18-30 category. A Kokomo native, Barnes is a Cox Scholar and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity president and was appointed by IU President Michael McRobbie to his student advisory Board of Aeons.