The Long View
In 1915, Indianapolis physician Dr. Luther Dana Waterman gave Indiana University $100,000 to establish a science endowment. At the time, he was not thinking of acoustics. He wasn’t thinking of mathematics, or endocrinology, or zoology, or psychology.
Rather, he wanted to benefit scientific research of any kind at the institution he loved. And he wanted that gift to last for years to come.
Dr. Waterman was, among many things, a published poet who earned the money for his first set of medical instruments by winning first place in a poetry competition. His own words may have best summed up his vision for the endowment: “Build thou thy faith in science, which is based on truth, and which shall yet o’erarch all things.”
Dr. Waterman served as a faculty member at the Indiana College of Medicine. That school combined with others in 1908 to form the Indiana University School of Medicine. By 1915, when he made his gift, he was professor emeritus.
Dr. Waterman created his endowment—one of IU’s oldest on record—to fund an “institute of science.” It had few restrictions as to what kind of science it supported. Its first beneficiary was Professor Arthur L. Foley, chair of the department of physics in 1917, chosen by a committee that included Waterman. Foley’s work revised standard theories of sound amplification and led to the redesign of train whistles of the era, making them more effective.
Today, Waterman’s gift supports the work of Richard Shiffrin, Distinguished Professor and Luther Dana Waterman Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Shiffrin was first awarded the title in 1980.
“Dr. Waterman’s gift was particularly helpful during my sabbaticals in the 1990s, during which time I was a visiting professor at the University of Queensland and then at the University of Amsterdam,” recalls Shiffrin. “It was during the second sabbatical that I developed a new model of memory.”
For Shiffrin, the flexibility provided by the Waterman funds has been critical. Like the science it supports, funding for
21st-century research has become ever more complex, with some grants running dry as others begin. The Waterman funds help Shiffrin bridge those gaps in funding, or even help him pay the graduate students who aid in his research.
“These kinds of funds help science progress,” notes Shiffrin. “It’s why I feel anyone who provides such funds should be highly lauded.”
Between Foley and Shiffrin, nearly two dozen researchers have been supported by Waterman’s gift. Their work has included the climate and topography of Indiana, the origin and morphology of maize, celestial mechanics, the life cycle of gall wasps, the physical properties of radium, and more.
That list will continue to grow because of the steady support the endowment provides. Soon, the carefully managed funds of Dr. Waterman’s gift will have aided scientific research at IU for 100 years. It’s an amazing record.
That’s why the IU Foundation seeks out donors who want to create their legacies through endowments, whether in science, or the arts, or business, or any of the academic fields at IU. Endowment gifts are generous acts that last for generations.
From 1926—1977, there were a variety of studies done with Waterman Institute funds by a variety of researchers. Today, after careful management, the fund not only continues to benefit scientific study 100 years later, it is valued at three times its original gift.
The array of scientific inquiry aided by Dr. Waterman’s generosity is vast. Here is a list of the scientists and topics the Waterman endowment benefited during that time. It ends in 1977 with Professor William Breneman, who was awarded the funds in 1933. After his retirement, the open-ended nature of Dr. Waterman’s gift meant university officials had little guidance to determine how to award the fund. After taking applications from several faculty members, Professor Richard Shiffrin was chosen to be the beneficiary of Dr. Waterman’s legacy.
Fernandus Payne, Zoology
Paul Weatherwax, Botany
Harold T. Davis, Mathematics
Mason E. Hufford, Physics
Robert R. Schrock, Geology
Edgar R. Cumings, Geology
Clyde A. Malott, Geology
H. T. Briscoe, Chemistry
Herchel Hunt, Chemistry
O. W. Brown, Chemistry
G. Etzel, Chemistry
Henry G. Nester, Botany
K. P. Williams, Mathematics
Rolla R. Ramsey, Physics
John R. Dutcher, Physics
Franklin P. Reagan, Medicine
Stephen S. Visher, Geology
Herman P. Wright, Biology
Alfred C. Kinsey, Zoology
Gerald L. Wendt, Chemistry
G. W. D. Hamlett, Biology
Stanley A. Cain, Botany
William R. Breneman, Zoology