IU associate professor Jim Capshew shared his research for his book on longtime IU chancellor Herman B Wells at the March 23, 2009, Bloomington Press Club meeting.
The working title of the book is How Herman B Wells Built Indiana University and Shaped Higher Education Around the World, and Capshew demonstrated the logic in that title in his presentation, complete with a slideshow.
Wells was IU president (1937-1962) and chancellor (1962-2000). Capshew says his book will look at the span of his life and “his great capacity for friendship and brotherly love,” among other topics.
In his presentation, Capshew used quotes from letters and documents detailing Wells’ life from small-town Indiana boy to global traveler to the face of IU for decades, and how all of those experiences shaped a leader.
As an undergraduate in the late 1970s, Capshew was a houseboy at Wells’ residence, one in a long line of student assistants who performed chores for the revered IU icon.
“Wells always asked the houseboys how our schoolwork was going,” Capshew said, “but he was interested in all IU students, not just us.”
Many IU alumni remember Wells not for supporting research or ensuring that the arts have a place on campus, but as Santa Claus handing out candy canes in the union.
“Few university presidents would take the time to do such a thing every year, but until the very end of his days, Wells very much was students’ biggest supporter,” Capshew said.