How we remember Ken Gros Louis

From university administrators to colleagues and student leaders, Ken Gros Louis touched lives on the Bloomington campus for more than a half-century. Below are the IU community’s responses to Gros Louis’ passing and the mark he made on the university.

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In 1956, Ken Gros Louis and Herman B Wells first met at a national conference of the Sigma Nu fraternity. Gros Louis was an undergraduate delegate from Columbia University; Wells, IU president, was serving as national chairman of the fraternity. Eight years later, Gros Louis was at Indiana University, embarking on a lifetime of scholarship and service. Upon his appointment as Bloomington Chancellor and Vice President for Academic Affairs in 1980, he instituted an open telephone line to his office one day each week, fielding calls from students, faculty, staff, or citizens about university concerns and issues. Forty years before, President Wells instituted public office hours for the same purpose. Both men realized the value of open and accessible communication. In 1982, the old Tenth Street stadium was torn down. President John Ryan faced strong pressure from members of the board of trustees and some faculty to pave it over for parking. Ryan consulted with Gros Louis, and they agreed that the best long-term use would be to re-landscape the site as greenspace. Wordsmith Gros Louis suggested an apt phrase — "a stadium of green" — that found its way into Ryan's commencement speech, and the seed of the Cox Arboretum was planted. A few years later, Gros Louis came up with an idea for a scholarship program designed to attract the best high school students in Indiana and help staunch the college "brain drain" to other states. He convinced a self-effacing Chancellor Wells, then in his mid-eighties, to lend his name to the program. The Herman B Wells Scholars have been enlivening the Bloomington campus since 1990.

When Wells died in 2000, Gros Louis remembered his mentor, friend, and colleague: "He always said that the spirit of a place was its most important attribute, and he always worked tirelessly to enhance it at Indiana University. For me, the warmth of his being is his greatest legacy." The very same is true for Ken Gros Louis.

–James H. Capshew, University Historian and Professor, History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine

Early in my IU adventure, I was fortunate to sign up for a Shakespeare class he taught. What still registers in my mind is that he was the epitome of a professor — his personality, humor, demeanor, presence; I had many worthy and memorable professors but he was a class act.

–Diane Tapia Quinn, BA, English, 1967