A gavel lies within easy reach of the president of the Board of Trustees.

History of the gavel

Following is a summarized version of the presentation by Judge Ora L. Wildermuth to the Board of Trustees, of the gavel which has been used since 1951. The full account appears in the minutes for June 15, 1951.

“Judge Ora L. Wildermuth asked to have a few minutes to speak on a thing or two, mentioned a stick of wood which he stole from behind the Union Building—something which was to have fed the everlasting flame in the Lounge. It was wild cherry, which was too good to leave for the fire.

“After carefully surveying the neighborhood and detecting no one to witness, the Judge slyly uncovered the stick and was just about to pick it up when a voice behind him inquired, ‘Can’t I carry that to your car for you, Judge?’—and there was the campus mailman! (Here, were interposed queries as to whether that was the reason the Judge once argued for an increase in his salary!)

“The Judge let him carry the wood, reasoning that he would then be an accessory after the fact—though it later occurred to him that Wayne Whisen probably did not know what an accessory was. Anyway, he carried the wood home with him, where it occurred to him that we did not have a gavel for the President of the Board to use—and there should be one to maintain decorum, or to tap a sleeping member over the head if his snores disturbed the Board too greatly. Moreover, the Judge was behind in his whittling.

… there should be [a gavel] to maintain decorum, or to tap a sleeping member over the head if his snores disturbed the Board too greatly.

“So he made a gavel from the stick of wood—which grew on the campus—and now wishes to present it to the Board if it will accept. He presented the gavel, which was beautifully made—also a block of wood upon which Mr. John S. Hastings may pound, since the gavel is so heavy that it would probably go right through the table! The Judge further suggested that the President might use it in meetings of the faculty, particularly to handle recalcitrant members.

“Mr. Hastings spoke, accepting the gavel, expressing the thanks and the appreciation of the Board. Minutes of this meeting should carry an appropriate account of the history of the gavel and board and the maker of the gift—put in that he stole it! Secretary to take notice of the fact that this gift is restitution for the theft. No matter when or where the Board meets, hereafter this gavel is always to be present.”

Many years later, the gavel mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again. In 2003, with the excellent assistance of the IU Bloomington Physical Plant, yet another piece of cherry was procured—this time in broad daylight—and was fashioned into a replica of the judge’s first gavel. No matter when or where the board meets, hereafter this gavel is always to be present.

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