Happy birthday, Herman!

Wells built an institution, and, in the process, became one himself. 
– Biographer James Capshew

If he were still alive, Indiana University’s legendary 11th president, Herman B Wells, would’ve turned 110 years old today.

A true IU icon, Wells was a remarkable man whose impact on IU and the Bloomington community continues to be felt to this day. His ongoing influence and stature at the university are almost mind-boggling when you consider that he retired from IU’s presidency 50 years ago, just a few days shy of his 60th birthday, an age when many university presidents are just beginning their tenures.

IU historian James Capshew has written a new biography on Herman B Wells and his impact, still felt today, on Indiana University.

In his newly published biography, “Herman B Wells: The Promise of the American University,” IU historian James H. Capshew writes eloquently about Wells’ retirement as well as the emotions surrounding his final commencement address as IU president in 1962. In an excerpt from the book, featured in the summer 2012 issue of the Indiana Alumni Magazine, Capshew describes the thoughtful deliberation leading up to Wells’ decision to step down from the presidency and the celebratory commencement scene at old Memorial Stadium on Tenth Street. The excerpt concludes with a touching moment: Wells turning speechless when surprised with an honorary degree.

Capshew’s book is available through IU Press, one of the many institutions Wells founded (in 1950) during his time as president. Audio types can choose to listen to Professor Capshew talking about his experience writing the book and Wells’ legacy to IU and higher education on a special IU Press podcast.

What’s more, you don’t need to be a biographer to visit IU’s extensive Digital Wells archive, which contains videos, photographs, drawings, stories and text relating to Wells’ extraordinary life, career and accomplishments.

You might even stop by to shake Herman’s hand, as many soon-to-be-freshmen and their families will do during orientation as they stroll by the lifelike statue of Wells, which sits on a bench near The Rose Well House pavilion.

IU tradition dictates that new students and their families shake Herman Wells' hand for luck.

Those are just a few of the many ways to celebrate the birthday of a man who, in so many respects, put the B (no period) in Bloomington and IU on the map as one of the world’s foremost institutions of higher education.

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