Parents of incoming freshmen greet Herman B Wells statue during campus tour
Editor's Note: More photos from "The Wells Touch" presentation can be found in a special photo gallery.
As the temperature edged over 90 degrees on July 15, a group of about 50 parents of incoming Indiana University freshmen trekked dutifully across the Bloomington campus for a day of family orientation activities.
On the heels of a presentation titled "The Wells Touch," the group walked through the heart of campus, each stopping to pay respects to the bronze, lifelike statue of former IU President and Chancellor Herman B Wells by shaking his hand for luck.
Trevor Pittman, assistant director of information systems at the Office of First Year Experiences, said "The Wells Touch" session highlights the significance of Herman B Wells to IU and how his influence continues at the university today. "After the session concludes, parents are invited to shake the hand of Dr. Wells' statue on the way to lunch at the Indiana Memorial Union," said Pittman. "We encourage them to follow the tradition that shaking Dr. Wells' hand will bring luck to their student while at IU."
The statue of Wells -- who is credited with elevating the university's stature in research, the arts and international studies -- is on permanent display upon a bench near the open-air pavilion The Rose Well House. It was installed in 2000, the same year Wells passed away.
Moms, dads, siblings and grandparents walked by the statue in single file, each carrying a red-and-white IU bag and each greeting Wells in his or her own way.
"What's up there, brother?" asked a lanky man in a baseball cap as he bro-slapped the statue's hand. Some barely touched the hand as they chatted on cell phones or texted, while others sympathized with the statue ("His poor hand is going to fall off one of these days. They'll have to re-weld it!" said one mom in tan capri pants and a brightly patterned floral handbag).
Bob and Jeanne Berney of Bronxville, N.Y., said their son Liam chose IU because he wanted to go away to school -- not attend New York University, like his older brother. "He loves the Big 10," Bob Berney said. "He's interested in business school, and one of Liam's friends told us about the Kelley School," said Jeanne Berney. "It's a great program."
A dark-haired man in a red-and-white striped polo shirt looked the Wells statue in the eyes as he shook hands. "He was the real thing," he told his companion as they walked past. "He corresponded with my father for 40 years, sent him Christmas cards . . . "
The line dwindled to just a few as the families of incoming students streamed by, anxious to move out of the sweltering heat and on to lunch.
A woman with a black bob in a pink shirt and polka-dotted bag looked closely at the statue's sleeve. "Look! He has cufflinks!" she pointed out to her husband.
Finally, a fellow in jeans, Miami Vice sunglasses and a cap raised his glasses, winked, and shook Wells' hand with a wide grin. "Good work, man," he said, nodding approvingly.
It may have been a trick of the light, but the Wells statue seemed to wink back.