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Being Lucky

Reminiscences and Reflections

Herman B Wells

Publication Year: 2012

In this absorbing autobiography, Herman B Wells, the legendary former president of Indiana University, recalls his small-town boyhood, the strong influence of his parents, his pioneering work with Indiana banks during the Great Depression, and his connection with IU, which began as a student when the still provincial school had fewer than 3,000 students. At the end of his 25-year tenure as president, IU was a university with an international reputation and a student body that would soon exceed 30,000. Both lighthearted and serious, Wells's reflections describe in welcome detail how he approached the job, his observations on administration, his thoughts on academic freedom and tenure, his approach to student and alumni relations, and his views on the role of the university as a cultural center. Being Lucky is a nourishing brew of the memories, advice, wit, and wisdom of a remarkable man.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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To Begin…

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pp. ix-xiii

Another reason for my attempting this book was Thomas D. Clark's urging that I record my own perceptions of my administration. While writing the third volume of his history of the university, he reminded me from time to time that he was writing about the university's history, not about...

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Preface to the 1992 Reprinting of Being Lucky

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pp. xiv-xvii

Although I am in my 90th year, I continue to go to the office daily when I am in town and work without interruption for five or six hours. Even then it is difficult for me to keep up with the volume of correspondence that the mails bring and the many appointments scheduled...

Preparation for the Presidency

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1. Growing Up in Jamestown and the County Seat

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pp. 3-28

It was the thrust of the steel and refining industries that turned the northern part of the state into a great industrial complex in the first quarter of the century, while in southern Indiana, along the Ohio River, agriculture remained a major economic and social...

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2. Widening Horizons

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pp. 29-40

The summer before I left for college I had traveled to Whitestown daily to run a little country bank that had been organized there in opposition to the established bank. My income was rather good for a teenager, and in four months I had saved quite a bit of...

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3. What It Was Really Like

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pp. 41-43

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...

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4. Country Bank Failures

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pp. 44-61

I had left the University of Wisconsin with the understanding that I would return after one or two years with the IBA. Dr. Kiekhofer agreed with me that the experience in the IBA would give me an excellent opportunity to gather material for my dissertation, which...

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5. Reopening, Reconstruction, and Reform

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pp. 62-71

The case of each closed institution had to be studied. Its assets and liabilities, the strength of its leadership, the need for it in the community, and its prospects for success if reopened—all had to be analyzed. Since depositors' funds were frozen, rapid decisions were...

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6. Apprenticeship in Academic Administration

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pp. 72-93

My predecessor, William A. Rawles, class of 1884 and a member of the university faculty for forty-one years, was a remarkable man with a traditional and austere training in history and economics. Had his graduate work been in applied fields, say, at Wharton, he...

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7. The Fate of a Noncandidate [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 94-112

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...

The Presidency

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8. A Few Observations on Collegial Administration

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pp. 115-139

A university or college has a structural order all its own. That it is typically incorporated by legal charter in a given state does not mean that it has the structure of the typical business corporation. Quite the contrary is the case. A university is an association of...

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9. How to Succeed without Really Trying

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pp. 140-153

Some time after I announced that I would be stepping out of the Indiana University presidency on July 1, I was asked by the president of the association, Ray Olpin, to be the speaker for the spring meeting on May 7, 1962. Knowing the hazards, I found it difficult...

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10. Money, Money, But Never Enough

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pp. 154-163

From one standpoint this fact is not as remarkable as is the fact that the public supports higher education with tax dollars as generously as it does. Narrowly speaking, higher education directly benefits only those who have the opportunity to attend a college or...

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11. The Private Sector: Indiana University Foundation [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 164-176

A tremendous effort was made also to arouse the student body and the faculty, and as a consequence a substantial amount of money was pledged by these two bodies. In fact, the student campaign and the faculty campaign were responsible for most of the money raised...

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12. Academic Freedom and Tenure

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pp. 177-194

It must be remembered that democratic principles and individual freedoms were at that time once again threatened as they had been in World War I. With more and more foreboding we read of the horrors and conquests of Hitler's Nazi Germany, and many of...

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13. To Make Room for the Future

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pp. 195-211

The Self-Survey Committee, appointed early in my administration, reported that it foresaw no appreciable growth in the student body. Nevertheless, the time seemed to me appropriate for planning an orderly extension of the campus. We knew we had to move north...

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14. Student and Alumni Relationships

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pp. 212-229

With rare exceptions I had happy relationships with the students during my days in the president's office. I saved time for contact with them; I tried to accept their invitations even though in some instances it was not particularly convenient to do so. I recognized...

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15. Culture to the Crossroads

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pp. 230-235

Why did the development take that form rather than that of a public junior college system, a two-year extension of high school, in the state? One reason was the failure of several junior colleges that were begun. Another, more telling reason was, I believe, a...

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16. The University Looks Abroad

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pp. 236-253

First, we recognized that in the early years of its development Indiana University along with other American universities had been greatly assisted by the older, European universities, particularly the German and French. Even as late as my undergraduate days there...

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17. Academic Ferment

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pp. 254-262

Personal agony there was aplenty-the agony of shattering crises, of fourteen-hour days, of grinding drudgery with every minute scheduled and utilized and rarely a vacation, of disappointingly unrealized ambitions, of weariness beyond description. But these...

National and International Service

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18. A Trip and a New Awareness

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pp. 265-282

People were beginning vaguely to perceive Latin America at this time as of much more significance to the United States than had previously been recognized. Rumors of the Nazi infiltration in Latin America were rife, and suddenly, because of the war...

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19. A Glorious Experience in the Springtime of My Career

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pp. 283-300

The Greeks were convinced that a democratic election had to be held soon and that they would need help from the outside to ensure the fairness of the process. Already the Soviets were charging the British military in Greece with intimidation and covert activities...

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20. With Clay in Occupied Germany

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pp. 301-319

But those were strenuous days—days that put enormous pressure upon the staff, the faculty. the administration, and the Board of Trustees. In view of these problems, some members of the board had lingering doubts about the wisdom of having granted me leave...

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21. One World or None

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pp. 320-339

The headquarters of the conference was at the Claridge Hotel, the newest on the Boardwalk. Offices and rooms of the administrative officers were also at the Claridge, but many of the delegations and the support staff were housed elsewhere. All nations then...

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22. An Unusual Mission to the U.S.S.R.

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pp. 340-351

In the summer of 1958 I was offered an opportunity to visit Russia that would be of benefit to the university as well as to me. At that time, Edward H. Litchfield, who had served with me on the staff of General Lucius Clay in Germany, was chancellor of the...

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23. Education and World Affairs

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pp. 352-362

During the 1950s American institutions of higher education began to shed their parochialism and slowly to embrace the concept that the world is education's parish. One after another, universities became involved in international activities, generally with...

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24. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

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pp. 363-372

In 1941, when I was invited to join the Carnegie board, its membership included some of the most distinguished university presidents in America. Its reputation was unparalleled in the world of academia, making an invitation to serve on its board a prized...

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25. The American Council on Education and an Introduction to International Associations

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pp. 373-384

The contacts between American higher education and the federal government have been numerous and complicated; they grow increasingly so with the passage of years. But in wartime, these contacts were even more numerous with even more complicated...

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26. The Educational Policies Commission

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pp. 385-387

The pronouncements of the Educational Policies Commission had traditionally commanded considerable respect and influence in educational circles, and, when this group addressed itself to the priorities for education, the project demanded the very best efforts...

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27. The Roots of PBS

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pp. 388-391

The national effort of these two committees was supported by the Fund for Adult Education, which had been created by the Ford Foundation in 1951. The fund had an effective president, Scott Fletcher, and Robert B. Hudson, an able pioneer in the educational...

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28. Trying to Do One’s Share

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pp. 392-398

The special nature of the era in which I have lived increased the number of civic duties to be performed by volunteers. I speak especially of the time during which we were engaged in several wars that put great strain on the manpower of the nation and that required...

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29. With My Hat on the Back of My Head

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pp. 399-414

In the course of this journeying I have witnessed a remarkable evolution in travel. I can remember a time when a gravel road in Indiana was considered a good road. The automobiles have changed from the Model-T Ford to the present comfortable and maneuverable...

Beyond the Presidency

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30. The Summing Up

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pp. 417-430

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...

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31. The University Chancellor

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pp. 431-445

In addition, the board and President Stahr thought that, since I had been relieved of line-operating responsibilities, I could undertake ad hoc assignments on projects as they arose. It is a characteristic of a university that such projects do arise frequently and...

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32. Epilogue

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pp. 446

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...


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pp. 447-481


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pp. 483-493

E-ISBN-13: 9780253006165
E-ISBN-10: 0253006163
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253115560

Page Count: 544
Illustrations: 49 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • College presidents -- Indiana -- Biography.
  • Wells, Herman B.
  • Indiana University -- Presidents -- Biography.
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