September Spotlight on the Archives presents a blog about hidden stories in the Archives. To support the Archives, please donate below!
by Caroline Donadio
For the first time, with a functioning archive, International House can advocate for its distinguished legacy. Virtually ‘hidden’ for 96 years, International House Archives, can now provide access to the full richness and breadth of its history with the potential to reveal knowledge on significant individuals and notable events. The question now is, how will the Archives contribute? What stories can our records uncover and support?
The Archives at I-House offers a rare view into the lives of international students in America studying abroad. With a myriad of cultural backgrounds and perspectives, I-House has nurtured many different individuals across a variety of fields. The experiences of our community are both notable and unique. The Archives holds the stories of our distinguished alumni, staff, and trustees and sheds light on how I-House may have shaped their world view.
International House New York, Member Yearbook, 1931. / I-House Archives
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (’31) was a member of I-House while studying at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. A famous theologian and anti-Nazi dissident, Bonhoeffer was adamantly opposed to fascism and the Third Reich. After leaving the United States, Bonhoeffer was arrested and hanged in 1945 for aiding and abetting Jews escape and his part in the “officers’ plot” to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer achieved posthumous fame when publishers printed letters from his death cell and other philosophical writings, and his status and influence continue to this day.
Leontyne Price working at the front desk, 1954/ I-House Archives
Leontyne Price and Daisy Soros, circa 1990s / I-House Archives
Part of the International House legacy lies in having served as an early home to many successful artists. The first African American soprano to debut at the Metropolitan Opera, Leontyne Price (’52), not only lived at I-House, but she also worked at the front desk. As the receptionist, Price created a welcoming atmosphere and was the first face that greeted Residents and guests visiting I-House. As a Resident, she spent her Sunday afternoons practicing arias in the Main Lounge and frequently sang at Sunday Suppers and other events. After graduating from Juilliard, Price served on the I-House Board of Trustees and designed and performed a series of programs to benefit the House and its Residents. I-House Alum Alain Peracca (’85) remembers Price’s farewell performance at I-House in 1985 and was struck by Price’s kindness, recalling that the opera singer referred to I-House and its residents “like family.” Other notable artists and performers who lived at I-House include visual artist Leon Polk Smith (’38), folk singer Burl Ives (’39), actor Roscoe Lee Browne (’49), operatic mezzo-soprano Shirley Verret (’58), American actress and singer, Patti LuPone (’69) and the creators of “Come From Away,” David Hein (’01) and Irene Sankhoff (’01).
Burl Ives outside I-House with Dr. Lawrence Cardoza of Bombay, circa 1950s/ I-House Archives
Throughout its 96 years, in addition to famous residents, I-House has retained distinguished leadership. Paul A. Volcker, renowned American economist and Chair of the Federal Reserve, served as the I-House Chairman of the Board from 1998-2012. Volcker believed very strongly in the mission and values of I-House and its role in guiding future generations of global leaders. After his tenure as I-House Board Chair, Volcker continued to serve as an Honorary Trustee and sponsored a popular speaker series. As historians and economists continue to refer to ‘The Volcker Rule” to repudiate proprietary trading, even after his death in 2019, Volcker will be remembered for years to come.
Paul Volcker with the former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, and I-House President Don Cuneo, 2004/ I-House Archives
Making the Archives more visible through complete descriptions, keyword searches, and a discoverable presence will ensure that I-House’s history is properly represented. While the Archives may not provide definitive insight on all these individuals, I hope that once fully processed, the Archives will offer glimpses into the everyday lives of our extraordinary community. With support and funding, what the Archives can accomplish is limitless.
Want to support the Archives? Click below! Have a question? Please email me at Archives@ihouse-nyc.org