Photo of Virginia Calvin

VIRGINIA CALVIN

“I’m Going to Defy All This.”

While there are many ways to define Virginia Calvin’s life, perhaps one key point is that she never met a rule she couldn’t and wouldn’t defy. In her words, “I don’t care about the rules. I learned a long time ago those rules are meant to stop you, not meant to be a guidance.” For Virginia, such rule-defying was necessary, having started her career in an era when landlords felt free to declare, “We don’t rent to coloreds.” Virginia “dared to dream” of being superintendent of schools at a time when the average Indiana school superintendent was a 35-year-old white male. Despite the unwritten rules which stated that school superintendents were white and male, Virginia applied for the position and knew that “if they were fair, it was my job.” She observed that, “It seems like I fought all my life for fairness.”

When she took over as superintendent the School Corporation was over three million dollars in debt; however, during Virginia’s tenure she was able not only to erase this debt but also to leave office with a surplus of 11 million dollars. Despite the multiple obstacles she faced, including being the proponent of a controversial plan to reorganize the schools, Virginia survived “two lifetimes” as superintendent. Upon leaving her position as superintendent, Virginia stepped in as Chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College North Central after having gotten the job “faster than you go through McDonald’s.” Virginia is quick to note that “the only thing I can bring is a vision, and that’s what I’m best at.” This is demonstrated throughout her career, but especially in her creation of the Valuing Diversity program for the South Bend Community School Corporation.

Her mantra of “whatever you’re doing, be the best you can be” perfectly summarizes all she has brought to her multiple contributions to South Bend.

  • Sagamore of the Wabash
  • Past Chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College – North Indiana
  • Past Superintendent of South Bend Community Schools Corporation,
  •      with 28 years of service in multiple positions
  • State Superintendent of the Year
  • First African American school superintendent in the State of Indiana
  • South Bend Hall of Fame
  • Member, Alpha Kappa Alpha
  • Founding Member, The South Bend (IN) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated
  • Member, Board of Commissioners, Indiana Commission for Women
  • Founding member, South Bend Charter Schools
  • Member, Saint Joseph County Parks Board
  • Chair, South Bend Housing Commission
  • Chair, Monroe Meissner Board of the Saint Joseph County Community Foundation
  • Chair, African American Community Fund

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