Photo of Charlotte Pfeifer

CHARLOTTE PFEIFER-GILLAM

“Anyone who lets you, treat them well.”

When asked about her life, Charlotte describes it as “beyond not just my expectations, but even beyond my imagination.” Describing herself as “Baptist to the bone,” the expectations for her were to “be a good girl and a good citizen. Love my family. Get married.” Since moving to South Bend in 1965, Charlotte has not only fulfilled these expectations, but has also exceeded them.

Charlotte observed that “the first day I set foot in college, I arrived.” While earning her degree at Indiana University South Bend, Charlotte’s love of history blended with her love of crime stories blended into a career spanning over 20 years in community corrections. After serving as the first African American female adult probations officer, Charlotte went on to open the DuComb Center in 1981. A facility providing an alternative to prison for non-violent offenders, DuComb was the first residential facility funded by the Community Corrections Act in Indiana. Under Charlotte’s guidance, DuComb Center grew from an idea on paper to a thriving facility providing various intervention programs as an alternative to prison. Throughout this time, Charlotte was also a full-time mother to her children, Carla and Ricky.

Upon leaving DuComb, Charlotte returned to IUSB and opened the first Office of Campus Diversity on campus. Since that time, Charlotte has practiced her philosophy of “making a difference in people’s lives.” She says that “anyone who lets you, treat them well.”  She has been a leader in raising awareness of multiple facets of cultural diversity issues around both the campus and the community leading diversity training and workshops, as well as through her ongoing activism efforts.  In 2000, Charlotte, representing the 2nd District of South Bend, became the first African American president of the Common Council of the City of South Bend. Charlotte championed the modification of the South Bend Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity as categories protected from discrimination. After years of debate and discussion, the ordinance was finally successfully passed in 2011.

Though retired, Charlotte remains an active presence in the community today, teaching at IUSB and “making a difference in people’s lives.”

  • First residential community corrections director in Indiana
  • Opened first office of Campus Diversity at Indiana University South Bend
  • First African American president of the South Bend Common Council
  • Winner of the Roland Kelly Award through the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation
  • South Bend Hall of Fame inductee
  • Urban League Community Service and Civil Rights Award
  • South Bend Equality Human Rights Award
  • Community Service Award, Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation
  • Outstanding Community Service, City of South Bend
  • Distinguished Alumna Award, IUSB Liberal Arts and Sciences

Information compiled from oral history collected by The Michiana Women Leaders Project

Charlotte was honored at Celebrating Michiana Women Leaders 2016.