Indiana University Bloomington

The book - Herman B Wells: The Promise of the American University

Book title: Herman B Wells: The Promise of the American University

by James H. Capshew

James H. Capshew

Distribution: World
Publication date: April 18, 2012
Format: cloth 488 pages, 44 b&w illus.
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-35720-5



Energetic, shrewd, and charming, Herman B Wells was the driving force behind the transformation of Indiana University—which became a model for American public higher education in the 20th century.

A person of unusual sensitivity and a skilled and empathetic communicator, his character and vision shaped the structure, ethos, and spirit of the institution in countless ways. Wells articulated a persuasive vision of the place of the university in the modern world. Under his leadership, Indiana University would grow in size and stature, establishing strong connections to the state, the nation, and the world.

Order Now from IU PressHis dedication to the arts, to academic freedom, and to international education remained hallmarks of his 63-year tenure as President and University Chancellor. Wells lavished particular attention on the flagship campus at Bloomington, expanding its footprint tenfold in size and maintaining its woodland landscape as new buildings and facilities were constructed.

Gracefully aging in place, he became a beloved paterfamilias to the IU clan. Wells built an institution, and, in the process, became one himself.


"It is impossible to really understand the history of American higher education in the twentieth century without this vivid, informed biography of one of the great, perhaps the greatest, of the university builders."

—John C. Burnham, Research Professor of History, Ohio State University


"Herman B Wells was, indisputably, the preeminent university leader of our time, who inspired and energized two generations of presidents, chancellors, and deans. Capshew's account of Wells’s remarkable career fills a critical gap—not simply by recounting his myriad achievements, but by helping us to better appreciate the true genius of a revered colleague and mentor."

—Robert M. O'Neil, former President, University of Virginia


Listen to Jim Capshew talk about Herman Wells and his book on Interchange. Capshew speaks about Wells’ personality and leadership style, his time as a student, Dean of the business school, President and Chancellor at IU and his legacy and contributions to IU, Bloomington, and higher education.


A preview of some of the photos included in the book