Hoosier Hall of Fame: Indiana University

On the strength of groundbreaking faculty and famous alumni, a dynamic president makes Indiana University into an academic powerhouse.

This story is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s 2016 Indiana Bicentennial coverage, which includes our list of the 200 Hoosier Hall of Fame picks, designated throughout in bold or highlighted. For more on this celebration of the state’s first two centuries, click here.


Herman B Wells transfers from the University of Illinois to Indiana University

Disenchanted with student life in Champaign—and against his banker father’s objections—the undergrad from Jamestown, Indiana, chooses the Bloomington campus largely for its charming wooded setting and limestone buildings.

¹ 1924

Wells earns a bachelor’s degree in business administration

And forges important friendships, namely with Nelson Poynter —a Sullivan native with whom Wells worked at the Indiana Daily Student, and later a pioneering newsman—and Hoagy Carmichael.

¹ 1926

Ernie Pyle begins work as a roving U.S. columnist for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain

A Daily Student staffer who left IU before finishing his degree, the Dana, Indiana, native takes the job with a recommendation from his student-newsroom colleague, Poynter. Five years earlier, Scripps-Howard had been renamed from Scripps-McRae when Manual High School grad and former Indianapolis News reporter
Roy Howard became the company’s co-director.

¹ 1944

Pyle wins Pulitzer for his WWII columns

Considered one of the greatest journalists of the 20th century, he blazes a trail for a number of IU alumni who become media figures, from Indy native and Today co-anchor Jane Pauley to Tavis Smiley , the radio and TV host with programs on BET, PBS, and NPR who grew up in Bunker Hill, Indiana.

² 1930

Wells accepts a position teaching economics at IU

With Wells’s appointment, three of the arenas that will bring IU national glory—music, journalism, and business—have been set in motion by Wells and his classmates.

² 1938

Alfred Kinsey begins controversial studies in human sexuality

Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey

While preparing to teach a marriage course petitioned for by the Association of Women Students, the IU zoology professor discovers a lack of research related to goings-on in the bedroom. Wells, by then university president, allows Kinsey to do just that.

² 1967

The Kinsey Institute for Sex Research hires Dr. Alan P. Bell

Bell embarks on a pioneering study that challenges whether homosexuals are maladjusted. That same year, he becomes a father with the arrival of Joshua Bell (see p. 76).

³ 1950

Howdy Wilcox convinces Wells to create IU Student FoundationPresident of the IU Foundation and son of a former Indianapolis 500 champion, Wilcox has a dream: a student bicycle race inspired by the famous auto race in Indy.

³ 1962

David Blase rides 139 of 200 laps in the Little 500

While training for the race, Blase befriends a Yugoslavian-born replacement rider and aspiring screenwriter named Steve Tesich.

³ 1979

Tesich wins an Oscar for penning Breaking Away

An early break for such Hollywood stars as Dennis Quaid and Daniel Stern, the movie will become a mainstay on “all-time greatest sports movie” lists.

¹ The Pyle timeline.
² The Little 5oo timeline.
³ The Kinsey timeline.