L. R. Hesler Phi Beta Kappa Key
This collection houses Dean L. R. Hesler’s Phi Beta Kappa key.
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0.1 Linear Feet
This collection houses Dean L. R. Hesler’s Phi Beta Kappa key.
Dr. L. R. Hesler, noted expert in mycology, former Professor, and Chairman of the Botany Department and Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, was born February 20, 1888 on a farm near Veedersburg, Indiana. He was the second of two sons of Clinton F. and Laura Iris (Youngblood) Hesler. His father was of German descent; his mother's family was of Irish ancestry. He was named Lex after an aunt's beau, and his mother added (perhaps facetiously) -emuel, making it Lexemuel, although he was always known familiarly as Lex.
Hesler attended the Shib Furr School near his home and graduated from Veedersburg High School in 1907. He began the study of piano at the age of nine, and continued the lessons until leaving for college. He also was a member of several choirs while a student and faculty member at Cornell University. He entered Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana in the fall of 1907. Although he intended to transfer to Purdue to pursue an engineering degree, he changed his major to botany, completed the requirements for graduation in December, 1910, and was granted his AB degree in June 1911. He was greatly influenced by Professors Mason B. Thomas and Jacob R. Schramm.
He entered the graduate School in Plant Pathology at Cornell University in January 1911, where he was awarded the PhD degree in 1914. While at Cornell, he served as a Fellow, 1912; Instructor, 1912-1914; and Assistant Professor, 1914-1919. In 1914 he married his wife of 63 years, Esther Lillian Collins (d. 1982). From February to April 1914 Hesler lived in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where he had an appointment from the U. S. government to study citrus scab at the Federal Experiment Station.
He resigned his position at Cornell in 1919 to accept an appointment as Professor and Head of the Department of Botany at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. From 1934 until his retirement in 1958, he served as Dean of Liberal Arts. During his tenure as department head, Hesler built a strong faculty, bringing in such scientists as Aaron J. Sharp, who later was to succeed him as head of the same department. In addition to his teaching and administrative chores, Hesler carried on exhaustive research work. The fire that swept Morrill Hall in 1934 was catastrophic for him: it destroyed his extensive fungi collection, his manuscripts for two books, and his large personal library. Undaunted, he later reassembled his fungi specimens and rewrote his books for publication.
In addition to his scientific pursuits, Hesler held an abiding interest in music and sports. His athletic interests were manifested at an early age, as he placed first in the high jump in a tri-state (Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky) meet during his senior year in high school. He also pitched for a semi-pro baseball team in New York during the summer of 1912 and 1913, and in Puerto Rico while doing research for the U. S. government in 1917. Hesler helped to organize and coach the first UT track team in 1921, and was a member of the Athletics Council from 1924 until his retirement. An ardent sports fan, Hesler attended the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles and the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He assembled a scrapbook of Olympic memorabilia from each of these trips, as well as the 1968 Olympics, all of which are housed in Special Collections in the UT Library. Finally, he served as a member of the University Concerts board, and as dean of Liberal Arts, was instrumental in organizing the Department of Fine Arts. He also encouraged the development of UT's Carousel Theatre.
A firm advocate of a strong liberal arts education, Hesler promoted the ideal of academic excellence. He once said that students coming to college should be prepared to work hard at their subjects. Hesler followed his own advice, as he continued his mycological research and publishing activities throughout his retirement years, until shortly before his death. Throughout a remarkable span of sixty-eight years, he published more than one hundred scholarly articles and ten books. His Mushrooms of the Great Smokies, probably his best-known work, won two prizes for literary excellence in 1960. Much of his later work was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Dean Hesler was a member of many scholastic organizations and societies, including Sigma Xi, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Zeta, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Mycological Society of America, and the Tennessee Academy of Science. His awards included an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Wabash College, in 1953. Hesler was also honored in 1968 on the occasion of his eightieth birthday at a mycological symposium at UT, which attracted the participation of scientists from throughout the world.
Perhaps the best view of Dean Hesler came from his friend and colleague, A. J. Sharp. Just two years before the former dean's death, Sharp opined that Dr. Hesler has won deep respect from all who knew or know him. He was not loved by every student or faculty member, but his firmness, coupled with fairness, his ability to reverse himself if warranted, and his humor, a bit earthy at times as is characteristic of boys from Indiana and Ohio, merited admiration from all.... A bit shy, somewhat reticent, sensitive and generous, he has had a great influence on his friends, his students, his colleagues, and the educational community.
Collection consists of one folder.
Alvin Nielsen donated this collection to the University of Tennessee Archives in 1991.
Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA