Former IU chancellor Ken Gros Louis dies


Friends and colleagues put together a party to honor Ken Gros Louis' work and commitment to IU students for his 80th birthday earlier this year. Gros Louis died Thursday at the age of 80. Dominick Jean Buy Photos

Former IU Bloomington Chancellor Ken Gros Louis died Thursday night in his sleep at 80 years old. One of Gros Louis’ daughters sent out an email to his friends and colleagues Friday night breaking the news.

He came to IU in 1964 to teach English and comparative literature. He was later dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

In 1980 he was promoted to vice president of the IU-Bloomington campus, and in 1988, he added the title of chancellor of IU-Bloomington, also becoming vice president of IU's seven-campus system. In 1994, his title was changed to vice president for academic affairs.

“I’ve been here long enough that the sons and daughters of graduates from the '80s come to me,” Gros Louis said at his 80th birthday party in February. “Being with students has been the greatest experience.” 

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Some compared Gros Louis to Herman B Wells.

“You and I never knew Herman B,” said Luke Fields, an old friend of Gros Louis, former IU student and the organizer for Gros Louis’ 80th birthday party. “He’s as close as we’re going to get.”

Gros Louis was one of the advocates for the creation of the Office of Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Student Support Services and the School of Journalism.

Gros Louis retired in 2001, but came back to IU in 2004 to serve as interim senior vice president and Bloomington chancellor. In 2006 he was again named University chancellor. In 2011, he was designated the title of University chancellor emeritus.

Steve Sanders, associate professor of law at IU, said he knew Gros Louis as an IDS reporter but went to work for Gros Louis as an assistant in 1989 after Sanders graduated the University in 1984.

“I really feel like I learned about the values of a university and about academic administration just observing and working for Ken,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said Gros Louis became a name that was passed down to leaders of major student organizations as a person they needed to get to know. He said many students throughout the years developed close relationships with Gros Louis. 

He said current IU Student Association President Dan Niersbach worked out with Gros Louis weekly.

“He was one of my most important mentors, but I think you would find hundreds of people who would say the same thing,” Sanders said. 

Gros Louis was popular among students throughout his entire career from being a professor to College of Arts and Sciences dean to chancellor, Sanders said.

“Even when he was a high-level university administrator he was known for making time to talk to students,” Sanders said.

He added Gros Louis would even have an end-of-the-year party at his house for the students he worked worked with. 

Former IDS editor Jay Judge said in a Facebook post, “I remember being invited to his home for dinner with a dozen other students after a year of covering him for the Daily Student. He was personable, caring and even a little funny.”

This story has been updated to provide additional information and correct several dates.

Emily Abshire contributed reporting.

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