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Helene O'Leary
IU Libraries

Mandy Clarke
IU Press

Last modified: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reception at Wells Library will celebrate new Herman B Wells biography

April 11, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In celebration of the man who made Indiana University what it is today, the IU Libraries will host a reception to introduce a new biography by James H. Capshew, "Herman B Wells: The Promise of the American University," published by Indiana University Press.

The event, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, in the lobby of the Herman B Wells Library, will feature remarks by President Michael A. McRobbie and IU Libraries Dean Brenda L. Johnson. Capshew, an associate professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, will read a selection from the biography. Wells-themed hors d'oeuvres and Wells cake will be served, and copies of the book will be available for purchase.

In researching the biography, Capshew relied primarily on the IU Archives, a department of IU Libraries that maintains the university's historic records. Wells' papers and other professional and personal items are part of these extensive collections, which document IU's origins and development. Selected items from the IU Archives will be on display during the event.

"We are so pleased that the IU archives could offer such rich material for this biography," Johnson said. "Professor Capshew spent years poring over the Wells papers, discovering a great deal of illuminating information about Herman B Wells and his influence on the university.

"It's been especially fascinating to learn from Capshew about how and why Wells built the university's Main Library in 1969. That building is now the Herman B Wells Library, where we are honored to host this exciting event. Professor Capshew has done a remarkable job of portraying Wells not only as a visionary but also as a compassionate person whose presence enriched the lives of so many, and this biography offers an opportunity for the IU community to be reintroduced to this extraordinary man."

Capshew and Wells

Chris Meyer

James Capshew with a bust of Herman B Wells

Print-Quality Photo

The culmination of more than a decade of work, "Herman B Wells" incorporates Capshew's firsthand knowledge of the IU president and chancellor as his friend and former employee. Capshew worked as a houseboy for Wells in the 1970s, when Capshew was an IU undergraduate and Wells served as university chancellor.

"He really changed my life in all kinds of positive ways," Capshew said. "He did the same for the university. I've tried to make this book a comprehensive survey of his life and career, focusing on his main areas of involvement and what he stood for."

Capshew's book holds special meaning for Indiana University Press, as it was Wells' idea and initiative to establish a press at Indiana University in 1950.

"Throughout the years until his death, President Wells remained a mentor to the Press and a prime supporter of its work, recognizing its importance to Indiana University," said Janet Rabinowitch, director of Indiana University Press. "We are proud and honored to publish this book."

Capshew will be available to sign copies of the book and answer questions about his research. In addition, a new paperback edition of Wells' autobiography, "Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections," will be available. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information on the event, contact Helene O'Leary, IU Libraries, For more information on the book, contact Mandy Clarke, Indiana University Press,