BLOOMINGTON, IL. —The Illinois Wesleyan University community lost one of its most
respected and appreciated academic leaders when Emeritus Professor Wendell Hess, the
University’s first provost, passed away Thursday, April 3.
A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 12 at Wesley United Methodist
Church, 502 E. Front St., Bloomington, with a reception immediately following.
In a message to the campus community, President Richard F. Wilson noted, “Wendell’s
commitment to the University was enduring, and we are saddened by his sudden passing.”
He asked the Wesleyan community to join him in extending sympathy to Loretta Hess,
the Hess children — David and Cara — and to the entire Hess family.
Commenting on Hess’s career Wilson noted, “Wendell made significant contributions
as a teacher, advisor, and committee member. He also served in several key leadership
positions.” Those positions included chemistry department chair, director of science
programs, associate dean (twice) and dean of the University. In 1987, Hess was named
Illinois Wesleyan’s first provost and served as acting president the following year
while a search was conducted for a successor to President Wayne Anderson.
Hess joined the IWU faculty in 1963 as an assistant chemistry professor after receiving
his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Kansas. In 1969 he was named the
Century Club Honoree, the University’s highest honor for teaching excellence. Over
the course of his career, Hess served on numerous faculty and University committees
and held various leadership positions.
Upon being named provost, Hess stated his goal was to maintain an environment in which
“the greatest teaching can occur.” Among his initiatives was to convert Buck Library
into an appropriate space for emerging computing technologies — efforts for which
the University received national accolades. During the 1980s, Hess was appointed by
President Robert S. Eckley to lead a University task force charged with developing
new academic programs such as International Studies, fostering the faculty’s professional
growth and enhancing pre-professional opportunities for students.
When Wendell and Loretta Hess made a gift establishing an Endowed Professorship in
2012, President Wilson expressed a deep admiration for Hess “as one of our longest
serving and most loyal faculty members and administrators.”
“This professorship is yet another example of his commitment to the University and
the value he placed on great teaching,” said Wilson. Chemistry Professor Ram Mohan
was formally invested as the Wendell and Loretta Hess Professor of Chemistry this
fall during the annual President’s Convocation.
An active member of the Bloomington-Normal community over many years, Hess served
on the board of Wesley United Methodist Church, was president of the Board of Trustees
of The Baby Fold and was named “Citizen of the Year” in 2011 by the Town of Normal.
Among his many professional honors and distinctions were election to Phi Kappa Phi
National Honor Society and Phi Lambda Upsilon – The National Chemistry Honor Society.
Prior to earning his doctorate, he worked as a chemist with Phillips Petroleum in
Texas and as a nuclear reactor engineer at Idaho’s National Reactor Testing Station.