Honoree

William H. Wheeler

AWARDS

W. George Pinnell Award for Outstanding Service (2009)
Indiana University Bloomington
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Mathematics

BIOGRAPHY

Professor William Wheeler's tireless dedication to every task to which he commits himself -- as well as his habit of sending e-mails at three in the morning -- has caused several of his colleagues to question whether he ever stops working long enough to sleep. Wheeler, an associate professor of mathematics, "approaches everything he does with devotion, energy, thought and attention to detail," said James. F. Davis, chair of the Department of Mathematics.

Wheeler has been active on the Bloomington Faculty Council (BFC) for nearly 30 years. He served as secretary of the BFC from 2003 to 2005, has been an appointed a member of several of its committees, and has repeatedly chaired or co-chaired three of its most important committees including the Educational Policy Committee (EPC).

Wheeler is largely responsible for two crucial developments at Indiana University: the new policy on undergraduate admissions and the policy on general education. In 2003, President Herbert directed the faculty to develop a university-wide education policy, and the EPC with Wheeler as chair was determined to finally see it through. This proved to be no easy task, as countless obstacles presented themselves along the way. But Wheeler was dedicated to meeting with each academic dean and associate dean, as well as representatives from all eight campuses, to discuss the proposal. When he was faced with criticism or disagreement, he was willing to rethink his plan until a consensus could be reached. He also continually sought feedback from administrators, students and colleagues.

The new admissions policy was developed under Wheeler's co-chairmanship of the EPC and was passed unanimously by the BFC in 2006. The policy emphasizes increasing the level of academic preparedness of incoming students by considering their performance in high school courses above other factors such as standardized test scores. This has been a major step toward Indiana University's goal of elevating its stature as a leading state university by improving its undergraduate profile.

Wheeler also took on the challenge of developing a campus-wide general education program—an effort that has seen several failed attempts over the past 20 years. The EPC's proposal was passed in 2006. "He has brought to the process an encyclopedic knowledge of the campus' past struggles, mostly ineffectual, with general-education policy, his own research on broader educational data, and his indefatigable enthusiasm," wrote David Nordloh, IU professor emeritus of English. "And of all those resources, his enthusiasm has been the key."

Wheeler has also made significant contributions to the Department of Mathematics. He led the campus effort to create and work with advisors to use the Mathematics Skills Assesment test, which effectively places first year students into math courses that are appropriate for their skill level.

Additionally, Wheeler is responsible for the Department of Mathematics' use of the WebWork Homework system, which he installed and actively maintains. WebWork is an online system that provides students with individualized homework lessons and immediate feedback, in addition to giving the instructor detailed information about the success of students on different problems. It is now used by thousands of IU students each semester.

"His engagement in this work has been long-suffering for the good of the students and the mathematics curriculum, and his contributions were not a passing fancy for trying out some new technology," wrote Brad Wheeler, vice president for information technology and professor of information systems at the Kelley School of Business. "It is this very tenacity of purpose that distinguishes Professor Wheeler's meritorious contributions to the campus; he is not easily swayed as trends come and go, and he remains an effective, multiyear advocate for initiatives that matter."