"Indiana University and Traditions of Leadership"
East Lobby Indiana Memorial Union
May 1, 2008
Every morning when I arrive in Bryan Hall, I pass by the portrait of IU’s tenth president William Lowe Bryan. He is seated, legs crossed with a pensive look on his face and a slightly furrowed brow.
Art Critic Paul Zucker once wrote that “[f]acial expressions and body gestures are a living language which we all have learned to read as . . . a revelation, of character. A keen portraitist has a flair for this wordless language of the face, and . . . can give us insight into the hidden psychological quality.1
As challenging as it is to capture the wordless language of the subject’s face, body, and mind, the portraitist has an even greater challenge. That is to capture the spirit of an era. A portrait captures the person and the moment.
Here at Indiana University, presidential portraits remind us of the tradition of leadership that has characterized IU since its founding. We can look to the portrait of Andrew Wylie, IU’s first president, hanging just behind you and above the steps leading to this lounge. Painted by T.C. Steele, it depicts President Wylie against a dark background as he is turning pages in a book. The stark image highlights Wylie’s highly symbolic action.
We can look to the image of Cyrus Nutt, fifth president of IU, hanging just to the left of the Trustees Office. His gaze is high and his eyes are blue and watery. Seeing those eyes, we can imagine the challenges he and his colleagues faced in those early days.
And we can look to the imposing portrait of Herman B Wells hanging above the landing near President Wylie’s. Painted by Allen Hirsch, this depiction captures, in vivid color and heavy brushstrokes, the dynamic and powerful character of Wells and his presidency, which transformed the face of Indiana University.
These portraits and others tell the ever-changing story of leadership at Indiana University. They are a tribute to this University’s great history and remind us of the many achievements that have led us to this moment. Their watchful presence as we move through our lives on campus also reminds us of our own obligation to this great university. That is an obligation to achieve excellence and to rise to the challenges of our own era.
Today we mark another milestone in university leadership as we unveil President Adam W. Herbert’s portrait, which now becomes part of the indelible history of Indiana University. It is a particular pleasure for me to unveil this portrait, having worked productively with Adam for four years and being his successor. So please join me in congratulating him and his wife Karen for their years of service and their contributions to Indiana University.