The Burkhardt Building has a long rich history at Ball State University. Built in 1924, it was one of the first buildings at the Ball Teachers College. Ball State’s footprint in Muncie began with the Ball brothers purchasing Eastern Indiana Normal School (the current Administration building) and the area between University, McKinley, Riverside and Tillotson Ave on July 25, 1917 (the Quad). It was renamed the Indiana State Normal School in 1918, before it became the Ball Teachers College in 1922, and in 1929 it was dubbed the Ball State Teachers College.
The building is currently named after distinguished university professor, professor of history, dean of the Teachers College, and former acting president Richard W. Burkhardt, but it was not always the home of the Department of History. When Kathryn Anne (Phillips) Cole and her future husband Ronald Cole walked these halls, it was the Science Building. They were introduced to each other in what is now the History Department conference room, which was an office space for research and graduate assistants at the time. Ronald only gave her a passing glance at the time not realizing the impact she would have on the rest of his life. During their time at BSU, the Burkhardt Building had a large ascending staircase onto the second floor (home to Biochemistry) complete with a balcony to overlook the first floor. There was only the main entry from the quad (all the others were added later).
Even while the campus of Ball State grew and changed, Kathryn and Ronald’s commitment to each other remained constant. Together over their 52 years of marriage, they adopted 7 children (including a niece whose parents were taken tragically and one whose parents were students at Ball State). Both were committed to education. Ronald taught for 38 years at Madison Heights High School in Anderson, and Kathryn taught taught science and helped with Kindergarten enrichment for 24 years.
After she retired in 2012 from teaching, she stayed active in the school science fair and the science club.
It was after her passing on July 21, 2016 from Metastatic Breast Cancer, that Ronald started wandering the places the two of them had frequented together. This included the second floor of the Burkhardt Building. If you wish to know more about Kathryn, her obituary guides you through more details of her life.
The history of Ball State is usually understood through the eyes of it’s administrators, faculty, and the physical space of the campus. Much deeper than this lies the stories of people like Kathryn and Ronald who have made memories on campus that are worth remembering and sharing.