A Beloved Campus Presence: Herman B Wells Sculpture
Whether he was greeting a child or meeting with dignitaries from around the world, IU Bloomington’s late president Herman B Wells exuded a warmth that made him beloved by students, faculty, and the Bloomington community. Today a life-size bronze likeness of Wells by sculptor Tuck Langland sits in the center of campus where thousands of students walk each day. Placed on a park bench, the sculpture depicts Wells with his favorite hat, his tie loosened, and his hand extended – palm down, as was his habit of greeting. When you visit IU, you’ll see the sculpture in the historic Old Crescent section of campus, among some of the “oldest and most beautiful buildings on campus,” says IU alumna and communications staff member Jocelyn Bowie. She says the sculpture is “near some of the woods that Dr. Wells insisted were part of the beauty of the campus … and facing Bloomington’s downtown, because Dr. Wells also was famous for integrating IU into the larger community.”
Wells the man served as president of the university from 1938 until 1962 and as chancellor from 1962 until 2000. In shaping IU into what it is today, he championed research, the arts, international programs, and academic freedom. According to Bowie, he also “never forgot to congratulate faculty members and students on their accomplishments,” and his handwritten notes are cherished by all who received them. As president, he personally signed every student’s diploma. At Christmas time, he dressed as Santa and roamed the campus ringing bells and passing out treats, even when he was in a wheelchair. Bowie notes that “he lived until the age of 97 and until his death he attended events all over campus. Especially important to the community, he attended every funeral and memorial service for the faculty and staff who preceded him in death.” Wells died in 2000, a few months before the Langland sculpture was dedicated.
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