Learning from a Leader

Over the past couple of months, I have spent some time learning about former Indiana University President and Chancellor Dr. Herman B Wells.  Despite having a hectic schedule, I have found it relaxing to take a little time to learn about things outside of the rigors of my studies.  Chancellor Wells was a visionary leader who guided Indiana University through a period of tremendous growth, with the student body expanding from roughly 3,000 students to almost 30,000 students by the time he left the presidency.  While I won’t attempt to recount everything he achieved (that is done much more eloquently in his autobiography, Being Lucky as well as his biography by James Capshew), I would like to point out some things that resonated with me.

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Former IU President and Chancellor Dr. Herman B Wells (photo courtesy of http://indianapublicmedia.org/about/wells-profiles/)

Perhaps most telling about his character was the fact that Dr. Wells personally signed every diploma during his presidency.  He explained that this gave him a sense of direct identification with each graduate and gave him a great deal of pleasure as he reflected on students that he had interacted with personally, names that brought to mind fathers, mothers, or other relatives, and helped him participate in each graduate’s accomplishment.

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Statue in the Old Crescent of former IU President and Chancellor Dr. Herman B Wells (image courtesy of http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3057/3984866477_ce198090df.jpg)

Adding to that was his efforts at desegregation, which were truly ahead of his time and demonstrated his strength of character.  While Dr. Wells’ efforts in desegregation were quite fruitful, today we find ourselves waging a similar battle as we as a society continue to struggle with acceptance of immigrants, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender populations, the poor and homeless, and countless other groups that still battle discrimination, bigotry, racism, and intolerance.

Fortunately for us, much effort has been devoted to promoting diversity and equity here at Indiana University.  The University administration from the Board of Trustees and the Office of the President on down have made it known that their initiatives on Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs are a priority, which is a promising start and a strong continuation of President Wells’ efforts towards acceptance, tolerance, and community for all who call Bloomington and Indiana University home.