JOSEPHINE A. FERGUSON
August 30, 1923 – March 11, 2023
VALPARAISO, IN -- Josephine “Jo” Ferguson, 99, passed away on Saturday, March 11, 2023. Survivors include God Daughter Barbara Wiler and many other nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews; faithful caregiver Grace Besa, special companion Richard Brauer, long-time personal assistant Carol Howard, and close friends Dorothea Snyder and Nina Corazzo. Preceding her were her parents, Christian and Verma Luecke, her husband Byron, a brother, Christian, and two sisters, Dorothy and Cornelia.
Jo was born and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her family’s emphasis on faith and education had a strong influence on Jo’s lifelong values and goals. She graduated from Kokomo High School in 1941, and took a year off to work in Fort Wayne before attending Valparaiso University. She met her future husband, Byron Ferguson, on the first day of registration for her classes. He joined the U.S. Navy the next year, but returned to marry Jo on December 22, 1945, and to finish his own education at Valparaiso University after Jo graduated in June 1946. Jo worked in the VU Admissions Office for those two years, after which they moved to Bloomington where Byron earned his master’s degree in chemistry while Jo worked as the Director of Placement for the School of Business and Economics at Indiana University. They then returned to Valparaiso to work at their alma mater, Byron to teach in the Chemistry Department and Jo as Director of Student Services and then Director of Student Financial Aid from 1950 to 1965. Then, at the request of Indiana Governor Branigan, she spent two years in Indianapolis setting up state scholarship programs and developing the Indiana Financial Aid Association. From 1967 to 1987 she served as the Administrator for Student Financial Assistance, Region V (Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan), at the U.S. Department of Education in Chicago. While working in Chicago, she earned a master’s degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She received numerous awards and commendations throughout her career, including an honorary degree from Valparaiso University and the Sagamore of the Wabash Award given by Indiana governors to those who have provided a distinguished service to the state.
Jo and Byron traveled widely throughout their marriage and developed their personal interests in art. After her retirement in 1987, she was the founding director and administrator for the FRIENDS of Art membership group at the Brauer Museum of Art at VU. Jo was a strong advocate for the arts at VU, having been involved in the development of the Brauer Museum of Art; the establishment of relationships with numerous artists and persons of influence in the art community, the purchase of numerous pieces of art for the museum’s permanent collection (including sculpture for the first time); the establishment of an endowment fund, the Ferguson Fund, to support acquisitions of artwork; the creation of the Ferguson Gallery for contemporary art; and the decisions of the Brauer Museum’s Collection Committee regarding permanent collection acquisitions. She worked tirelessly to educate others by organizing local and national art treks and art trips to Europe, and to promote the Museum for the University. Jo and Byron created a legacy for the Brauer Museum by creating a vision of what the activities of a full working museum could be.
Jo was a remarkable woman, a trailblazer in her field of financial aid, a leader and role-model way ahead of her time as a professional woman working in a man’s world. Her strong faith, her belief in the importance of higher education, and her desire to support access to this education through student financial aid were driving forces in her life.
A visitation will be held at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1700 Monticello Park Drive, on Friday, March 17, 2023, from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. with a funeral service beginning at 4:00 p.m. Memorials may be made to the Ferguson Fund for art acquisition at the Brauer Museum of Art or Immanuel Lutheran Church. Click here to watch a video tribute celebrating Jo's life.
The world is a strange place without Aunt Jo! I’m blessed to have been her “niece” all my life. I loved her very much and will truly miss her. In Sympathy, -Katherine Kallay Adams