Dr. Herman C. Hudson

Photo of Dr. Herman C. HudsonFew individuals have made a more powerful impact on the academic environment of IU than Herman Hudson, founder of IU's Department of Afro-American Studies. Born in 1923 in Birmingham, Ala., Hudson came from a family where education was strongly valued. Hudson received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan, and later arrived at IU in 1968 after teaching at Florida A&M University, the University of Puerto Rico and Kabul University in Afghanistan. But Hudson's success was not easily achieved.

Hudson suffered from meningitis since he was child and was legally blind for much of his life. Hudson's youngest sister, Dr. Vivian H. Ross, said her brother's handicap made his achievements even more impressive. "One thing that made our family so proud of Herman was the fact that he achieved so much with such little vision," Ross said. "He set out to pursue a career, and he achieved it with great success." Hudson's oldest daughter, Brendon Marie, said her father's success came as a result of his relentless determination. "My father was a steadfast warrior who fought for his principles from beginning to end," Hudson said. "IU really profited from his determination."

In addition to founding the Dept. of Afro-American studies, Hudson also played a significant role in starting programs that showcase the performing arts of African culture at IU. Hudson established the Soul Revue, the Choral Ensemble and the African-American Dance Company -- all part of IU's African-American Arts Institute. Hudson also helped form race relations within the community by founding the National Council of Black Studies.

"The list of (Hudson's) contributions (goes) on and on," Wiggins said. "It was under his vision that IU really took a giant step forward in the teaching and curriculum of African-American studies and the performance of the cultural arts."

When Charles Nelms, vice-president of diversity, came to IU in 1970, he said he remembers the warm generosity with which Hudson welcomed him. "When I came to IU, Dr. Hudson was the only African-American leader on campus," Nelms said. "It was very encouraging to me to be in the presence of such a caring and generous man." Nelms said he hopes people will focus on the lasting benefits of Hudson's life at IU. "His physical presence will be missed greatly," Nelms said, "but I would like people to really appreciate how his life and legacy still impact the University. He is the reason most of the diversity programs at IU exist today."