In his forty-one years as a member of the faculty of Indiana University, William R. Breneman contributed time and energy in service to the University, while successfully combining this with the roles of scientist and teacher. It is a record of achievement that few have attained.
Dr. Breneman's pioneering studies in endocrinology provided the basis for many advances in that field. At a time when hormones were little understood, his work shed light on their nature, function, and interactions. The results of many of his studies on the endocrine glands were published in major scientific research journals and brought him international recognition and invitations to lecture at conferences in this country and abroad. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences and the Indiana Academy of Sciences, and received long-term funding from the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and private industry.
To thousands of alumni, Professor Breneman is best remembered for his teaching. In well organized lectures, he gave thousands of students an exciting introduction to zoological science and stimulated many of them to choose zoology as their major subject. He was available to give sympathetic counsel and encouragement to his students, and had the special gift of recognizing each student as an individual, whether in a class of hundreds or a graduate course of fewer than a dozen.
Dr. Breneman achieved the rank of professor in 1944, and, in recognition of his excellence in research, was named the Luther Dana Waterman Professor of Zoology in 1962. But he continued to teach the general zoology course, believing that the introduction to a subject is especially important because, as he said, "That's where students get interested." His textbook, Animal Form and Function: An Introduction to College Zoology, stimulated student interest by providing a readable and informative introduction to the field.
Professor Breneman's lecture, "Kalamazoo to You," given just before Christmas vacation in his introductory zoology class, became a campus tradition. A vivid account of the odyssey of the earth and the biological history of mankind, symbolized in their chronology as the distance between Kalamazoo, Michigan, and his desk in the Jordan Hall auditorium, this "chalk talk" was a tour de force that annually attracted a standing-room only crowd of students and faculty.
Dr. Breneman was honored for his excellence in teaching by the Sigma Chi Brown Derby Award in 1948, the Frederic Bachman Lieber Award in 1956, the Senior Class Council Award in 1976, and the Arts and Sciences Alumni Teaching Award in 1981. In 1962 he was awarded an honorary degree from Indiana Central College.
Born in Indianapolis in 1907, William Breneman received the A.B. from Indiana Central College in 1930 and the Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1934. He then spent a year at the University of Wisconsin as a National Research Council Fellow, and the following year as an instructor at Miami University in Ohio before joining the faculty of Indiana University in 1936.
Throughout his career, in addition to research and teaching, Dr. Breneman contributed his outstanding talents and energy to serving the interests of the University. He was a member of the Faculty Council for twenty years and was recognized and respected as a statesman sensitive to the needs of all constituencies. He also served on numerous committees, where his humor and frank, fair, and informed judgment provided guidance for faculty members and administrators. He was chairman of the Department of Zoology from 1966 to 1969, and from 1964 to 1977 served as Grand Marshal of the University.
In 1965 Dr. Breneman was asked to serve as one of three members of the University Self-Study Committee. The committee's year-long examination of every aspect of the University provided proposals for maintaining and enhancing the University's position among institutions of higher learning. These proposals were published in the monumental report, "Growth and Change at Indiana University," which offered guidance for improving the quality of programs in the face of increasing enrollment and competition for financial support.
William Breneman officially retired from the faculty in 1977, and continued his research and publications in endocrinology, and his committee work on behalf of the University. His contributions over the past five decades, in teaching, research, and service, reflect the source of Indiana University's strength: the dedication of her faculty.
Dr. Breneman passed away on January 31, 1992.