Felt welcome and supported
As a relative newcomer to Bloomington (1993), it didn't take me long to learn of the impact of Herman Wells. My elderly next-door neighbor (the late C. Leonard Lundin) told wonderful stories about his colleague and friend Dr. Wells and, as a retired history professor, Leonard was full of good stories. Within a few months after moving here I decided that a good way to learn more about this community and the university that defines it would be to read Dr. Wells' autobiography. What a splendid work!
Not long after reading his book, I was hired by the university to give leadership to its controversial new student service office for gay and lesbian students. Knowing something of the strong leadership which Dr. Wells provided when another controversy surrounding sexuality erupted (the publication of Alfred Kinsey's findings) I thought it might be wise to visit with the chancellor to seek his insights. It was a great honor to meet with Dr. Wells in his home and over the next few years to seek his counsel on occasion and to discuss my work. I always felt welcome and supported in his presence. His interest in current issues of all sorts was amazing, even in the last years of his life.
About a year after the GLBT office opened, one of Dr. Wells' houseboys was visiting our library and mentioned that the chancellor had indicated an interest in visiting, himself. The building we are in is not wheelchair accessible and, in fact, others in the building had been trying for years to get the university to add a wheelchair ramp to the facility. A well-placed call a day after that conversation, mentioning the chancellor's interest in visiting us, resulted in a construction crew behind our building in just a matter of days! Several months later, we hosted a reception for Dr. Wells and were thrilled to open our doors to him. Subsequently, others in wheelchairs have visited our office and used our services.
At a time when all of us are hungry for role models in our lives, I think many people have been looking in the wrong direction — to Washington, to Hollywood, on the playing field, in the locker room, on the big screen, in the White House, in the halls of Congress. The citizens of Bloomington and the members of the Indiana University family have known where to look — right in our own back yard! We have had a hero in our midst lo these many years. He will be sorely missed. It is, now, our turn to live out the values his life exemplified and to make his legacy last.
From Remembering Herman B Wells, 1901-2000: www.heraldtimesonline.com, March 24, 2000
Thanks to the Bloomington Herald-Times for allowing Digital Wells to publish these excerpts from their archive.