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30. The Summing Up

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

WHEN I was elected president of Indiana University, I resolved that, should I be fortunate enough to be allowed to serve for twenty-five years, I would at that time step out of office voluntarily even though it would be prior to my reaching retirement age. To make sure that I would not forget this resolution, I mentioned it from time to time to a number of my colleagues. Therefore, in 1958 and 1959, I began to think of the appropriate time to resign and, conscious of the fact that it takes a while for a university to elect a new president, notified the Board of Trustees on December 12, 1959, that I was approaching the end of my presidency, to take effect on the twenty-fifth anniversary of my entering the office, that is, July 1, 1962.

Fortunately, circumstances made it possible for me to take this step without damaging the university. University affairs were in good order and no major crises or problems confronted us. Had there been major crises as I stepped out, it would have seemed that I was running away from a problem. But the contrary was true. The intervening years had been, in Thomas Clark's phrase, “years of fulfillment.” That did not mean they had been without discouragement and setbacks, problems and crises. But, as we came into the latter part of the 1950s, the university was operating smoothly, with students, faculty, staff, and trustees displaying a high degree of cooperation and confidence in each other.

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28. Trying to Do One's Share

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

IN OUR type of society, which expects many civic and social needs to be met by voluntary means rather than by government action, each able citizen is under some obligation to assume a share of responsibility for this voluntary work. The responsibility increases with the prominence of the citizen and his role in society. In America the college or university president is typically a leading figure in his town, his state, and frequently in the nation. This is certainly true of the president of Indiana University. The home campus is the dominant factor in both the economic and the social life of the community. As the oldest and largest university in the state, Indiana University has such eminence that any man who occupies its presidency automatically becomes a prominent figure in higher education and well known generally. If his personal characteristics and activities further enhance his public recognition, the amount of responsibility placed upon him is very large indeed.

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3. What It was Really Like

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

WHAT WAS INDIANA UNIVERSITY like in my college years? Through the mist of more than fifty years it is difficult for me to recall precisely the features of my own life as a student here. But of one thing I am certain: my collegiate experience profoundly changed my life.

The Bloomington campus in the 1920s had a colorful student body. Many highly individualistic characters were drawn to the university from other, less hospitable places and they contributed an effervescent quality to the student life. With companions like these life was never humdrum. Although the university had conventional rules and a strong tradition of in loco parentis, tolerant officers and faculty, if they chanced upon infractions, for the most part looked the other way.

We shared unquestioning pride in our university and a firm faith in its future. Student publications reflected this loyal stance, praising student activities when possible and, when not, revealing improvements in the offing. Unfortunate circumstances were the culprit when our teams lost, circumstances that were certain not to reoccur and hamper the teams next year. Such is my rosy recollection.

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32. Epilogue

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

WITH THE “summing up” and the description of my present duties, it seems a proper time to bring this volume to a close. Other topics could have been treated and perhaps should have been—for example, the Hoosier political personalities I have known, the Ristine-Wells Committee to study the reorganization of the State Department of Public Instruction, the New Harmony Memorial Commission, the boards of the James Whitcomb Riley Association and of Lilly Endowment, the boards of various colleges and universities (Earlham, American University in Cairo, Howard, Tulane, and others), the High Council of Sigma Nu and the board of its Education Foundation, the TIAA-CREF board, the Council on Library Resources board, the board of the International Association of Universities, and many others.

For my readers who search here in vain for a topic in which they are interested, I offer the assurance that those topics were not omitted because I felt them unimportant. In a long life so many things seem important that the task of selecting among them is extremely difficult. But I have had to choose in order to keep this volume to a manageable size and also because, as I thought about the past, invariably the present intruded and my mind teemed with new opportunities that seemed available if my years allowed. I am reluctant to delay undertaking them longer while I write about the past.

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7. The Fate of a Noncandidate

Herman B Wells Indiana University Press ePub

THOMAS D. CLARK, in the second volume of his history, Indiana University: Midwestern Pioneer, states that whereas I may have borne the title “acting president” I never really cast myself in that role. He went on to say, “Clearly, he acted like a president from the start.” While Dr. Clark was writing this volume he made similar remarks to me. At the time they seemed farfetched, almost preposterous. I remembered little of what took place from July 1, 1937, to June 30, 1938. Throughout my life I have tended to think infrequently about the past, concentrating rather on the future. I have that habit even now. The story of an incident that occurred long ago might illustrate the point.

At the death of Val Nolan, a trustee of the university, it was of course the sad duty of the trustees and officers of the university to attend the funeral. The transportation from Bloomington to Evansville was organized by Ward Biddle, the university comptroller. President Emeritus Bryan was to take his Buick, driven by his old chauffeur, Rocky, and Mr. Biddle assigned Trustee Paul Feltus and me to go with him. Feltus approached Ward Biddle privately, I heard later, and objected to his assignment, saying, “Can't you put me in another car? I don't want to ride 120 miles to Evansville and 120 miles back with two men who don't smoke and don't even know they live in the present. Bryan talks only about the past and Wells is somewhere off in the future.”

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