Start of a new year at IU means looking forward to old and new traditions


The following op-ed appeared in the The Indiana Daily Student on August 31, 2010.

Just a few weeks ago—as part of a campus-orientation tour—a group of incoming Indiana University freshmen and their parents visited the bronze, life-like statue of IU’s legendary 11th President Herman B Wells that sits on a bench in the heart of campus. The parents paused to shake Wells’ hand, hoping to bring good luck to their sons and daughters, and some of them even shared a quick greeting with the statue in passing.

This seemingly whimsical encounter offered a lighthearted moment for the newest members of our community. Yet it was also symbolic of IU’s proud and lasting traditions, which Wells played such an important role in establishing.

The start of each new academic year marks a time to enthusiastically celebrate these traditions, beginning with IU’s greatest and most timeless tradition: its commitment to excellence in education. For our students this time of year means taking advantage of exciting new learning opportunities with some of the best and most accomplished teachers in the world.

Outside the classroom, it means expanding their horizons by viewing the latest opera or ballet at our renowned Jacobs School of Music, checking out a new exhibition at the IU Art Museum, showing off their Hoosier spirit at Memorial Stadium, or being inspired by one of the most attractive campuses in the nation.

These and other traditions are what make IU such a special place, and I am proud to say that we are building upon those traditions in our continuing quest for excellence in everything we do.

Indeed, we have much to look forward to in the coming days and months.

Last week marked the opening of the new Union Street Center, formerly known as the Ashton Center, at Tenth and Union Streets, and early reviews of the new housing facility by students and their families have been overwhelmingly positive. With living accommodations that reflect a more contemporary sensibility and style, and bright new learning spaces, this new center will provide our students with new and greater opportunities for personal growth, social interaction, and leadership. It signals a renaissance in student living at IU, and we look forward to officially dedicating the new center next month.

Among IU’s most entertaining and enjoyable traditions, of course, are football and athletics. This week marks the start of another season of Hoosier football, and we have high hopes for a great and exciting campaign under Head Coach Bill Lynch.

The visions and dreams we have for a new era of excellence in athletics are represented by the magnificent athletics facilities that we have dedicated this last year, including the North End Zone Student-Athlete Development Center and Henke Hall of Champions, and our new basketball development center, Cook Hall. These new facilities celebrate past athletic achievements, including Big Ten and national championships, while offering our current student-athletes the academic and training resources they need to maximize their success in the classroom and on the playing field.

Not long from now, members of the IU community interested in another form of popular entertainment will have a world-class facility to call their own.

Film is one art form where IU has, for decades, had a superb scholarly reputation, but no facilities. The new, state-of-the-art IU Cinema, currently in development at the site of the old University Theatre, will offer scholars, students, and the broader community an accessible, dedicated facility that is vitally necessary to the cinematic experience. Featuring a full range of digital cinema and traditional projection capabilities, it will present the masterpieces of cinema as they were meant to be seen and serve as an exhibition space for film courses, festivals, and conferences, as well as for occasional visits by renowned filmmakers and scholars.

The new cinema, which we look forward to inaugurating early next year, will extend our glorious tradition in the arts and humanities—a tradition championed by none other than Herman Wells, who never stopped trying to make IU greater.

This desire stemmed from his own life-changing experience as an IU student, which he described so eloquently in his autobiography, Being Lucky:

“It was an efflorescent period when my mind was open to receive a myriad of new ideas. Music, literature, and art—my whole being responded to the stimuli of collegiate life, in and out of the classroom. It was for me a time of response, growth, transformation, and inspiration.”

As we prepare to celebrate and build upon the traditions that make this university so great, expand our horizons through our intellectual and cultural pursuits, and find inspiration in our surroundings—may all of you find, too, what Wells found here those many years ago.