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The Herald-Times

April 11, 2007

IU officials addressing former trustee's racist past
Campus building may be renamed after views of Ora L. Wildermuth brought to light
By Steve Hinnefeld

Indiana University will consider renaming its Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center in light of racist views held by the man for whom it is named.

IU President Adam Herbert said Tuesday he is calling for a "dialogue around issues of race in the context of Indiana's history" in connection with comments by Wildermuth, who was an IU trustee from 1925 to 1952.

"I am disappointed, but not surprised, that such views were promulgated by a leading Indiana citizen at that point in history," Herbert said in a statement.

Herbert said the dialogue he is proposing "will enable us to consider how best to proceed with respect to the name of the building."

Wildermuth, a former Gary city judge, said in a 1945 letter to the trustees' treasurer, "I am and shall always remain absolutely and utterly opposed to social intermingling of the colored race with the white."

In a 1948 letter to IU President Herman B Wells, he wrote: "The average of the (black) race as to intelligence, economic status and industry is so far below the white average that it seems to me futile to build up hope for a great future … Their presence in the body politics definitely presents a problem."

The letters were quoted in "Getting Open: The Unknown Story of Bill Garrett and the Integration of College Basketball," a 2006 book by Tom Graham and his daughter, Rachel Graham Cody. Garrett was a black man from Shelbyville who played basketball for IU in the 1940s.

The Indiana Daily Student reported the comments Tuesday in a front-page column by Andrew Shaffer, who called for changing the name of the intramural center in IU's Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building.

Wildermuth was born in 1882 and died in 1964. He earned an IU law degree in 1906 and was a civic leader in Gary, where a branch of the public library was named for him in 1954.

His IU letters on race were written when trustees were considering integrating university dorms or building housing for black students.

The Wildermuth Intramural Center, formerly the IU Fieldhouse, was built in 1928 and named for Wildermuth in 1971.

Avery Fisher award winners have ties to IU
By Andy Graham

Tuesday night's Avery Fisher Prize ceremony at New York City's Lincoln Center was not officially renamed "The Indiana Invitational." But it arguably could have been, as Indiana University went 4-for-4.

IU alumnus and Bloomington native Joshua Bell was on hand to receive the 2007 Avery Fisher Prize, one of the most prestigious honors in classical music. His selection was announced in March.

For the first time, the three annual Avery Fisher Career Grant awards were announced at the prize ceremony — and for the first time in anybody's memory, IU had a connection to all three grants in addition to the prize.

Grants went to violinist Yura Lee, double bassist DaXun Zhang and the Borromeo String Quartet, which features IU graduate Kristopher Tong on second violin.

"That's a bumper crop this year for IU," Lawrence Hurst, Jacobs professor and a mentor of Zhang's, said via cell phone just before entering Lincoln Center for the ceremonies.

"It's a testament to the excellence fostered by our students, faculty and administration all the way to the top."

Jacobs' top administrator, Dean Gwyn Richards, also attended the ceremony. He said it not only honored very deserving recipients but highlighted IU's scope as an institution on the world's musical stage.

"It's amazing IU has connections to all four awards, but few institutions have the breadth and scope of pedagogy, research and performance we do," Richards said. "Jacobs has just shy of 14,000 living graduates, and wherever you go in the musical world, chances are you'll find an IU connection.

"The fact that Joshua Bell is receiving this prize is a great honor for him, at the young age of 39. And our three even younger grant recipients are already making their mark. DaXun Zhang, for example, has quite remarkably emerged as a renowned soloist on an instrument widely perceived as an ensemble instrument."

Hurst said that Zhang stood out even among the best. "In my 40-plus years of teaching, I've never had a more talented student, and nobody comparable to him in terms of solo bass playing. He owns the stage. He's a wonderful artist and instrumentalist, and beyond all that a wonderful human being."

Zhang, scion of a family of double bassists in Harbin, China, is on the bass faculty at Chicago's Northwestern University.

Lee, a South Korean, studied 2001-05 at IU with Paul Biss and Miriam Fried. Last year, she was first-prize winner in the Leopold Mozart Competition.

Tong, from Binghamton, N.Y., joined the award-winning Borromeo in 2005 after studying at IU with Fried, Yuval Yaron and Franco Gulli.

Each Career Grant recipient receives a $25,000 cash award. The grants are designed to give professional assistance and recognition to talented instrumentalists and chamber ensembles who the Recommendation Board and Executive Committee of the Avery Fisher Artist Program believe to have potential for major careers.

Statement by IU President Adam Herbert

I commend Andrew Shaffer for his investigative journalism skills. Indiana University has a historic record of providing opportunities for African Americans and other underrepresented groups. I was not aware of the views held or expressed by the late Ora Wildermuth, a member of the Board of Trustees in the 1940s and '50s. I am disappointed, but not surprised, that such views were promulgated by a leading Indiana citizen at that point in history. These revelations provide an opportunity for dialogue around issues of race in the context of Indiana's history and identification with less progressive views on the topic. This dialogue will enable us to consider how best to proceed with respect to the name of the building. I take pride in the fact that Herman B Wells set a tone for the university that helped it become a leader in matters of race and equal opportunity.