Search

So, who is Herman B? by Laura Oxford

Herman B WellsEach day, Herman B gazes at me from a stately portrait hung on the wall in Wells West. No matter how many times I look up during the day, there he is with his approving smile. So, who is Dr. Herman B Wells, and why is our center named after him?

Herman B ("B" is his middle name, not an initial) Wells is not a doctor, nor a wealthy Howard Hughes type, but rather a scholarly gentleman who was appointed President of Indiana University in 1937. The Position of President was to be a temporary one, but lasted until 1962, at which time he was appointed University Chancellor. According to Dr. Morris Green, former Chairman of Department of Pediatrics, Herman B Wells is responsible for the stature of Indiana University. The University that we see today is the direct result of Wells' efforts. He encouraged growth by establishing several other campuses and the acquisition of the Benjamin Harrison Law School in Indianapolis.

Herman B Wells at graduationHerman's passion did not stop with education. Herman B was a true friend to children, though he never married, nor had any children. His presence was always felt at Riley Hospital for Children, and he was involved in any way that he could be, including often times playing Santa Claus.

Dr. Green fondly recalls Mr. Wells saying that Riley was a vital institution when it began, and the amazing thing is that it has retained its vitality. It was important to Mr. Wells that Riley continue to refresh, renew, and enhance its vitality and remain on the cutting edge of medicine, a task which the Riley Children's Foundation has taken very seriously.

In the late 1980's, the Board of Governor of the Riley Memorial Association (now Riley Children's Foundation) turned its attention to the expansion of research into the diseases of children. As Dr. Green said, "we cannot have a great hospital for children unless we have a superior research unit and excellent clinical care."

Herman B Wells with Lowe BryanThe research center was a dream come true for Dr. Green, and Mr. Omar Foust, former Executive Director of Riley Memorial Association, as well as many others who served on the Board during that time. The first priority of Riley was to provide excellent care to all children, a goal, which continues to be important and to be met. Now was the time for research. It was Dr. Green, Mr. Foust, together with some others, who approached Herman B Wells about naming the Center after him. Dr. Green told me that Herman was a beloved, kind man with no selfish interest in the accomplishments of his life. He exuded an enthusiasm that was contagious to all who knew or came near him, and a spirit of caring that "kept the place vital." In short, Herman B Wells was a respected, beloved remarkable man. It was because of this admiration that his colleagues approached him about using his name on the research center.

Herman B Wells with bookDr. Green told the story of the day the he, Mr. Foust, the IU Vice President, and a few other notables, went to Bloomington to meet with Herman. Herman did not know they were coming. When he saw his colleagues at the door, he said "Come on in boys. Hey, if all of you are here, who's minding the shop?" With gratitude and excitement, the gentlemen told Herman of their idea. Herman, however, told them that he just didn't know. It was obvious that Herman was not comfortable with the idea, and all hearts sank. Herman always was a modest man and did not like to draw attention to himself. Herman said that he was honored, but feared that if he accepted, he might upset some friends. "Let me think about this," he said.

A few days later, Herman called to announce that he would be pleased to accept the honor. With heartfelt passion, Mr. Foust's successor, Mr. Bob Baxter, former President of Riley Memorial Association, together with many others devoted to research, saw to it that the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research became a reality. In 1991, the doors opened.

As I was speaking with Dr. Green, I could feel the deep admiration that he had for Mr. Wells. He told me that Herman was "a wonderful human being, a remarkable man, perhaps the most remarkable man in Indiana."

Herman B Wells statueI don't think that there is a day that I walk through the halls of Riley Hospital without feeling fortunate that I work with a superior group of caring people, who spend countless hours to make kids well. It takes all of us to make this center work. The MDs, PhDs, Post Docs, technicians, students support staff, funding agencies and of course men and women with a passion and a dream, like Dr. Green, Mr. Foust, Mr. Baxter and Herman B Wells.