Nina Mason Pulliam

Faces of IUPUI: Nina Mason Pulliam

Nina Mason Pulliam (1906 – 1997) was a lifelong Hoosier whose last name became synonymous with newspaper publishing in Indianapolis for decades. A compassionate business and civic leader, Pulliam dedicated herself to serving and giving back to her community, a dedication that expresses itself at IUPUI through the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars Program, established by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust in 2001.

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Nina Mason Pulliam. Photo courtesy of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust

Born Nina Mason in rural Martinsville, Indiana in 1906, she was just a teenager when she was first paid for a literary essay. This inspired her love for journalism, which she went on to study at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana. She later attended Indiana University and the University of New Mexico before taking a full-time job at Farm Life Magazine in Spencer, Indiana. When Farm Life folded during the Depression, she went to work for an ambitious publisher named Eugene C. Pulliam. They were married in 1941.

During their marriage and careers, the Pulliams traveled extensively as a journalistic team. They were among the first Americans to visit and write about post-World War II conditions in Europe. Over the course of 11 years, Nina Pulliam was published in newspapers throughout North America and her articles were compiled into seven books. She was the founding secretary-treasurer and a director of Central Newspapers, Inc. (CNI), which Mr. Pulliam founded in 1934. She served as president of CNI until 1979.

Pulliam was one of the first women admitted to Sigma Delta Chi, now the Society of Professional Journalists. Mrs. Pulliam also loved flying and was the first woman to earn a private pilot's license in Indiana.

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Pulliam sits at her typewriter. Photo courtesy of the Nina Mason Charitable Trust

Pulliam's legacy continues to impact and inspire the next generation of leaders through the Nina Scholars program, which promotes and develops the success of under-represented students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Nina Scholars program holistic approach includes dedicated academic support, focused mentoring, career development, community service, and a scholarship toward the cost of attendance at IUPUI for up to six years. This program is one of only a handful of its kind in the country and adds eight new scholars each academic year. In April 2018, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust established a $3 million endowment with the IU Foundation to support the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program in perpetuity.

"The impact of the Nina Scholars program has been profound. Every aspect of my life has been enhanced by the practice of viewing challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. The way the curriculum is coupled with a supportive community of other students on similar journeys has made all the difference," said Rob McKibben, senior mechanical engineering major and Nina Scholar.