Herman B Wells: The Promise of the American University

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Overview

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 ...

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Herman B Wells: The Promise of the American University

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Overview

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. His 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.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

John R. Thelin

"This much-needed biography gives Herman B Wells his rightful place in the sun as an important university leader." —John R. Thelin, University Research Professor, University of Kentucky and author of A History of American Higher Education

John C. Burnham

"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

Robert M. O'Neil

"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

Lee H. Hamilton

"In this delightful biography, James Capshew has captured the essence of Herman B Wells, his extraordinary leadership of IU as president and chancellor, and his contributions to the university, observable from every corner of the campus. With tenacity, intelligence, and skill, Herman B Wells pursued his vision of building the greatness of IU—and it is all set out for us with grace and elegance in this volume to remember, learn about, and appreciate the life and work of Herman B Wells." —Lee H. Hamilton, former U.S. Representative; Director, the Center on Congress at Indiana University

Michael A. McRobbie

"Many universities have a giant of the past whose name is almost synonymous with the institution. Herman B Wells is Indiana University’s giant. His powerful vision and commanding presence transformed a small Midwestern college into a major research university of international stature. From his days as a student until his death in 2000, Wells demonstrated daily a deep and abiding love for Indiana University and the whole university community past and present.

Professor Jim Capshew’s thoroughly-researched book provides thoughtful and detailed insight into Wells’ early life, his important contributions to banking reform, his road to the presidency, the transformation of the university he then brought about, his efforts to desegregate the campus and the community at a watershed time for the nation, his extensive contributions to the internationalization of Indiana University, and his steadfast and courageous support for academic freedom.

This compelling and magisterial book will enhance our understanding of IU’s legendary eleventh president and all he accomplished. And it helps us understand how he achieved these remarkable accomplishments in the face of constant difficulties and opposition. It is a story of tremendous vision, of exceptional and subtle intelligence, of persuasive skills of the highest order, of almost irresistible charm, of relentless driving energy, but also of a man who hugely enjoyed being president of Indiana University.

As such it is also a story which will serve the vital purpose of introducing new generations of students and new members of the Indiana University community to the extraordinary life and career of Herman Wells and to rekindle fond memories among those who knew this great and unique man." —Michael A. McRobbie, President, Indiana University

From the Publisher
"Capshew has written a wide-ranging, engaging, and highly readable account of Wells’ life as one of the
major university builders in the twentieth-century United States." —Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences

"Many universities have a giant of the past whose name is almost synonymous with the institution. Herman B Wells is Indiana University’s giant. His powerful vision and commanding presence transformed a small Midwestern college into a major research university of international stature. From his days as a student until his death in 2000, Wells demonstrated daily a deep and abiding love for Indiana University and the whole university community past and present.

Professor Jim Capshew’s thoroughly-researched book provides thoughtful and detailed insight into Wells’ early life, his important contributions to banking reform, his road to the presidency, the transformation of the university he then brought about, his efforts to desegregate the campus and the community at a watershed time for the nation, his extensive contributions to the internationalization of Indiana University, and his steadfast and courageous support for academic freedom.

This compelling and magisterial book will enhance our understanding of IU’s legendary eleventh president and all he accomplished. And it helps us understand how he achieved these remarkable accomplishments in the face of constant difficulties and opposition. It is a story of tremendous vision, of exceptional and subtle intelligence, of persuasive skills of the highest order, of almost irresistible charm, of relentless driving energy, but also of a man who hugely enjoyed being president of Indiana University.

As such it is also a story which will serve the vital purpose of introducing new generations of students and new members of the Indiana University community to the extraordinary life and career of Herman Wells and to rekindle fond memories among those who knew this great and unique man." —Michael A. McRobbie, President, Indiana University

"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

Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences

"Capshew has written a wide-ranging, engaging, and highly readable account of Wells’ life as one of the
major university builders in the twentieth-century United States." —Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253357205
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2012
  • Pages: 488
  • Sales rank: 937,943
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James H. Capshew serves on the faculty of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University Bloomington. He is author of Psychologists on the March: Science, Practice, and Professional Identity in America, 1929–1969 as well as numerous scholarly articles, and has served as editor of the journal History of Psychology and as editor for psychology for the New Dictionary of Scientific Biography.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface: A Hoosier State of Mind
Prologue: Campus Centennial, 1920
I. The Shaping of a Fiduciary, 1902-37
1. In the Land of Jordan
2. Betwixt Banking and Social Science
3. The Politics of Banking Reform
4. First Taste of Academic Stewardship
II. Transforming the University, 1937-62
5. Acting like a President
6. A Vision for Indiana University
7. Charting a New Course
8. War Stories
9. Renouncing Prejudice
10. Postwar World, Home and Abroad
11. Music Appreciation
12. The Man behind Kinsey
13. A Metropolis of Books
14. Expanding the University’s Universe
15. Passing the Presidential Torch
III. At Large in the World, 1962-2000
16. Education and World Affairs
17. Back to Basics: Management and Marketing
18. Being Plucky: Covering the Distance
19. An Icon Aging in Place
20. A Peaceful Passing
21. Keeping the Memory Green
Epilogue: Reflections on a Hoosier Antæus
Appendix
Bibliography
Index

Indiana University Press

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 1, 2012

    A scholarly, enjoyable, and readable tale of a true Hoosier legend

    I first became interested in Herman B Wells because of trees. That made sound odd, but walking among the beautiful and ancient trees of the IU campus in Bloomington I wondered who had the wisdom and foresight to preserve what is a true treasure. It wasn't long before I had my answer, Herman B Wells. Wells is everywhere at IU, from his friendly bronze seated statue in the Old Crescent, to his likeness in the IMU, to his name carved deep upon the great library of IU. He is present at IU even more in spirit. Even those who know nothing of him feel him there. He orchestrated the creation of so much that makes IU one of the greatest institutions of the world. Herman B Wells is a true Hoosier legend who is too often overlooked. I was an admirer before I began to read Capshew's book and I was astounded at his accomplishments long before I finished it. Thank you, James Capshew, for writing this volume and sharing your knowledge of this kind, wonderful, and truly amazing man. This biography is a scholarly work, but it is entertaining, readable, and conversational. I felt as if I was with Wells as I read his story, so much so that I mourned his death at the end as if I had known him myself. James Capshew manages to bring Herman B Wells to life in a way that only someone who knew him can. Anyone with an interest in education, banking, politics, Indiana University, Bloomington, or Indiana history needs to read this book. I guarantee readers will not only enjoy it, but learn and benefit from it as well.

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