Psychological and Brain Sciences’ 125th Anniversary Celebration: 1888-2013

Whittenberger Auditorium
IU Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
October 11, 2013


Thank you, Bill [Hetrick].

It truly is a pleasure to be here to help celebrate the anniversary of Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, a program that is the oldest of its kind in the United States, and one that that has, for 125 years, been at the forefront of the scientific study of human mental processes, motivation, and behavior.

William Lowe Bryan: The Father of Experimental Psychology at IU

The origins of psychology have been much debated over the years. One school of thought holds that the roots of psychological thought and inquiry go back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks. Others contend that psychology really only began when the first experimental studies in psychology were conducted in the late 19th century.

In the case of IU’s psychology program, there is little question that the department can trace its origin to the early career of a man who was also one of my predecessors as president of Indiana University, William Lowe Bryan.

Bryan was Indiana University’s 10th president, serving for 35 years—from 1902 to 1937. He was, in fact, the longest serving president in our history and one of the longest serving presidents of any institution in the history of higher education.

He was born right here in Monroe County and earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from IU in 1884 and 1886.

His career was shaped, in part, by another of the great leaders in the history of Indiana University, David Starr Jordan. Jordan was a professor of natural sciences and a model of the new professional scientist.

Bryan was a member of a small club that Jordan had formed, the purpose of which was to encourage students to pursue careers in research disciplines and academia. Jordan advised promising IU students to earn advanced degrees at other institutions, and then return to IU as faculty members, and Bryan followed this advice.1

Bryan earned a PhD in psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts, where he studied under G. Stanley Hall, who had established the very first American psychological laboratory at Johns Hopkins just a few years earlier.

At Clark, Bryan also helped organize the American Psychological Association and became one of its charter members. He would later serve as the association’s 13th president.

Bryan returned to IU as a faculty member and vice president of the university. And, of course, he established a psychological laboratory here at IU that was the first research and teaching laboratory devoted to experimental psychology in the Midwest, and the 2nd such facility established in the United States.2

It is now, of course, the oldest continually operating psychology lab in the United States and it was the nucleus for the department whose 125th anniversary we celebrate today.

The Bryan Legacy

Of course, the psychology lab represents only the beginning of Bryan’s tremendous legacy at Indiana University.

He presided over the transformation of IU from a small, traditional liberal arts college into a modern research university. More schools were established at IU during his tenure than at any time until the last few years, and these schools remain among IU’s core academic schools.

President Bryan was also the leading advocate for Indiana University’s admission to the prestigious and elite Association of American Universities, which IU joined in 1909.

The academic development of the university under Bryan was paralleled by physical growth. During Bryan’s tenure, 40 new buildings were added to the campus, including the iconic Student Building and a new library building, which is now Franklin Hall. Franklin Hall is about to begin a new era in its history, as it will soon undergo a complete renovation.

In the years after World War I, Bryan co-chaired the Memorial Fund Drive, which had a goal of raising $1 million to finance three facilities—the original Memorial Stadium on 10th Street; Memorial Hall, originally a women's residence hall; and the Indiana Memorial Union—all of which would honor those from IU who had served in the war.

The administration building, Bryan Hall, is named in his honor. It was dedicated in 1937, on the eve of his retirement.

And, of course, Bryan House, the traditional home of the president of Indiana University, is named for William and his wife, Charlotte Lowe Bryan. Built in 1924, Charlotte was instrumental in the design of the home.

Earlier this afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting again with one of the department’s most distinguished alumni, Richard Atkinson, the renowned former president of the University of California system. When Mr. Atkinson was a graduate student at IU in the early 1950s, he actually had the opportunity to meet William Lowe Bryan, who was then still living in Bryan House.

Just last week, Bryan, who played baseball as an undergraduate, was posthumously inducted into the IU Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame as the only IU president to have lettered in a sport at IU. My wife, Laurie, and I were very pleased to host Bryan’s great-great nieces, Anne Bryan Weston and Betsy Weston van der Sluys, who travelled to Bloomington for the induction ceremony. William and Charlotte had no children, and, to the best of our knowledge, Anne and Betsy were the first descendants of William Lowe Bryan to visit Bryan House since William and Charlotte resided there.

Bryan was succeeded as president by Herman B Wells, who, of course, would become one of IU’s most iconic figures.

Wells was a great supporter of IU’s faculty, and rarely missed an occasion to celebrate their success. Here you see a young Herman Wells—very early in his presidency in 1939—pictured with William Lowe Bryan (shortly after Bryan’s retirement) celebrating the 50th anniversary of IU’s Psychology Department with the then-current and former chairs and guest speakers.

Celebrating The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

One of the hallmarks of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences is the long-term commitment of its outstanding faculty, a characteristic both encouraged and exemplified by Herman Wells. Here you see again by then Chancellor Wells in 1988 helping to celebrate the department’s 100th anniversary. Also pictured are Irving Saltzman and his wife Dotty. Dr. Saltzman served as chair of the department for 20 years, another example of the long-term commitment and loyalty of the department’s faculty.

One of Herman Wells’ maxims was that the administration must always be the servant, never the master, of the academic community. Today, our goal remains the same as it was in the Wells and Bryan eras: to provide the infrastructure, the resources, and support that our faculty members and our programs need in order to succeed.

On the occasion of this historic milestone, it is evident to all that IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences continues to flourish.

The program continues to be ranked among the best of its kind in the country. The department is ranked 9th in the nation for research productivity, and the Clinical Psychology Program has been ranked 11th in the country out of 157 programs in the field.

The department’s outstanding faculty continue to build upon the advanced research conducted here by such luminaries as B.F. Skinner, Jacob Robert Kantor, Esther Thelen, and William Kaye Estes, who was the first IU faculty member to be appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor.

The lectures and discussions many of you have heard today from the department’s distinguished faculty and alumni are further evidence that the department is a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary enterprise that is at the vanguard in psychological experimentation and theory.

That this anniversary falls at a time when President Obama has launched the BRAIN Initiative, a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, serves to underscore the importance of the work in which many of you are engaged.

The exceptional careers of the department’s many alumni, including those who will be honored in a few moments, are, to borrow from Herman Wells, “the fruits of Indiana University’s efforts in teaching and learning.”3


On behalf of the entire university, I congratulate the faculty, students, staff, and alumni of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences on the department’s tremendous success. Today, the entire university community takes pride in the department’s many accomplishments and the important role it continues to play in making Indiana University one of the finest universities of the 21st century.

Congratulations on this important milestone, and Best Wishes for continued success in the department’s next 125 years.

Thank you.

Source Notes

  1. James A. Woodburn, History of Indiana University. 1820-1902, (Indiana University, 1940). 326,338, 376,459-460.
  2. Eliot Hearst and James H. Capshew, (eds), Psychology at Indiana University: A Centennial Review, (Indiana University Department of Psychology, 1988), 10.
  3. Herman Wells, Being Lucky:  Reminiscences & Reflections, (Indiana University Press, 1980). 130.