Indiana University      Research & Creative Activity      September 2000 • Volume XXIII Number 1

Editor's Notes

Herman B Wells, 1902-2000

On March 18, 2000, University Chancellor Herman B Wells died quietly at his home in Bloomington. He was 97. Since then, the IU Bloomington campus, the Indiana University system, and the higher education community at large have mourned his passing and paid tribute to his legacy in numerous ways. It would be remiss, though, for this magazine not to add one more brief tribute. By any measure, IU’s research and creative activities are deeply indebted to the leadership of Herman B Wells.

As president from 1938 to 1962, Wells led an expansion that established IU as a top-tier research institution. When Wells stepped down, Henry H.H. Remak, who had been an IU faculty member when Wells was inaugurated, was asked to comment in The Review, a publication of the College of Arts & Sciences. (Remak is now professor emeritus of Germanic studies, comparative literature, and West European studies and is a member of the Research & Creative Activity advisory board.) Returning to Wells’s inaugural address, Remak was amazed to discover how closely Wells had followed the philosophy he articulated as a brand-new president in 1938. Here is an excerpt of Remak’s reflections, in which he quotes Wells:
Proclaiming lofty principles is not expensive; acting on the demands of the moment requires neither statesmanship nor character. Combining principles and action without jeopardizing either is surely the hardest thing on earth. Wells remained true to his “faith in an educational program which considers the essentials first and the gadgets second,” resolutely dedicated to maintaining the primacy of intellect and scholarship in the life of this institution. . . . He remained convinced that schools must be defended against “the selfish desires of unthinking or unscrupulous groups” and that an outstanding faculty is the Alpha and Omega of a distinguished university.

Guided by these principles, Wells influenced IU’s future as a research university in pivotal ways—among them, his unshakable support of Alfred Kinsey and the Kinsey Institute’s research on sexuality, his recruitment and support of Nobel Prize-winner Hermann Müller, and his promotion and development of area studies centers that have since brought scores of international faculty and students to IU. Wells did much for creative activities too—the IU Auditorium is just one example of a love for the arts he shared with the school he loved no less.

All that Wells accomplished as president and university chancellor was done with the unfailing charm and personal touch for which he was legendary. In an April 1994 conversation with Vice President for Research George E. Walker, which appeared in Research & Creative Activity, Wells recalled stories he would use to describe to state legislators the life of a research university. One anecdote was about walking with his mother through campus at night.

“She would say, ‘Why are all those lights on?’“ Wells told Walker. “And I would say, ‘They are all up there in the laboratories working.’ When someone would complain about those who ‘go around campus working with strings,’ saying ‘He’s just goofing off,’” Wells continued, “I would explain the importance of research [in] mathematical theory.“

Wells understood and respected the hard work that goes into research and creative activity. “For the most part, you work sacrificially,” Wells said in 1994. “It’s a bunch of monkey business about industry being more efficient. Here, our product is not profit.”

No one understood the true product of a university better than Herman B Wells. IU has profited greatly from his life and spirit.

Regular readers of Research & Creative Activity may note a new associate editor’s name in this issue. Michael Shermis, affiliated with R&CA for seven years, took his talents to the world of the Web last spring. He is now Projects Process Manager at WisdomTools, a creator of Web-based training tools for corporations and higher education. Although Michael holds degrees in philosophy and religious studies, he was mastering new technologies before most of us had sent our first e-mails. He has, in fact, long been known for his distinctive e-mail username, “shermism.”

According to my dictionaries, the suffix “-ism” defines a process or practice, a distinctive manner of action. If ever there was someone who is process, practice, and action combined, it’s Michael. His boundless energy and influence have made an impact on every part of this magazine, from the themes of the issues to the cover designs. As his successor, I’m fortunate to have been preceded by such ingenuity. More fortunate still, the magazine will continue to benefit from Michael’s presence on its advisory board.

I’ve yet to attain the status of “-ism” in my e-mail (or any other area of life, for that matter). Nevertheless, I look forward to carrying on the tradition of Research & Creative Activity, and I welcome your comments, suggestions, and ideas. Please feel free to send them to me at—Lauren Bryant

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