Henry H. H. Remak as Administrator – or as he put it – “a Lamb in Lamb’s Clothing”

Remak in his IAS office, 1992

Since May of 2011 I have been processing the professional papers of Henry H. H. Remak (1916 – 2009) who served Indiana University as a devoted professor, scholar and – at various points – administrator. At the end of last semester, I finished sorting this 108-box collection into groups of related materials – or series – based on Remak’s various roles at IU. This semester my work has begun on arranging and organizing each series. Last week, I finished arranging the administrative series, which highlights Remak’s diverse leadership roles. He served as chairman not only for one, but for three departments on campus – Germanic Studies (1962), Comparative Literature (1954-1963, intermittently) and West European Studies (1966-1969). Remak also served as Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Faculties (1969-1974), as well as Director of the Institute for Advanced Study(1988-1994, 1997-1998). While files from each of these diverse roles are included in the collection, for this post I’ll be focusing on Remak’s term as director of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).

IAS was founded in 1982 with the goal of bringing distinguished lecturers and visitors from all over the world to Bloomington in order to pursue their research and collaborate with IU faculty and students. Composer Leonard Bernstein, author Ursula K. Le Guin, and anthropologist Sir Edmund R. Leach are just a few of the noteworthy individuals that IAS has brought to IU in past years.

Remak with IAS fellow, Toru Haga, 1991

In 1988, when Remak assumed directorship of the Institute, he had already retired once. Yet, at the ripe, young age of 72 Remak was still teaching. He was also still active in his research, so what would stop him from directing “Indiana University’s leading center for the pursuit of new knowledge and new directions of inquiry in all fields of study” (Institute for Advanced Study)? In one of his “memos to fellow faculty members” – which were, without fail, characteristically enthusiastic, charming and rather lengthy – Professor Remak reassured his colleagues that he came to them “as a lamb in lamb’s clothing.” He went on to explain that his objectives were to “serve” the research needs of IU’s faculty and students, as well as “re-personalize” faculty interactions “in a university whose size and universality are great assets behind which lurks the danger of becoming a well-run bureaucracy where process is smothering substance.” During his tenure as director, Professor Remak certainly followed through with these promises by contributing to the Institute’s prolific list of fellows and visiting scholars.

Remak with Ivona Hedin of IAS and IAS fellow, Toshie Kawamoto, 1992

In 1989, Remak welcomed world-renowned semiotician, historian, and fiction author – Umberto Eco – to the Institute. In 1994 two-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and spokeswoman for the Chinese Democracy Movement – Chai Ling – came to IU thanks to the Institute. Leading European chemist Lord Lewis of Newnham and Sergei Denisov, who won the prestigious Lenin Prize in Physics, are just two more examples of the high-caliber scholars that Professor Remak helped bring to IU for the benefit of faculty and students alike. While I have just listed some “big” names to give you a small sample of what kinds of fellows the Institute was able to procure, as Remak noted:

The Institute for Advanced Study stands for more than bringing ‘big shots’ to Indiana University for ephemeral headlines. We have had our share of Nobel Prize winners and other celebrities (and that is fine), but we have also had “Assistant Lecturers” and “Resident Tutors.” Titles don’t matter. What matters is the quality of thinking and how it may contribute to Indiana University.

In 1994, Henry H. H. Remak retired from directing the Institute for Advanced Study. However, it would seem that Professor Remak had quite a flexible interpretation of the term retired. In 1997 he came back to the Institute in full swing and served as Interim Director for one more year. As gratitude for his many contributions as director, in 1994 the Remak Distinguished Scholarship award was set up in his honor. Additionally, in 1991 various IAS fellows contributed to a Liber Amicorum (a book compiled to honor a respected academic while they are still living) not only to thank Remak for his contributions to IAS but to mark the occasion of his 75th birthday.

As always, Remak did his job not just as a job but as a privilege that he undertook with skill, amiability and contagious enthusiasm.

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