Site 5: FESLER HALL (FH)
1120 South Dr.
"Fesler Hall Exterior, n.d., Taken by News Bureau,
IU Medical Center, UA24-003772,
IUPUI Special Collections and Archives
Fesler Hall houses the school of admissions and the administrative offices of Indiana University School of Medicine. Opened in 1939, the building originally belonged to the State Board of Health, which had chosen to locate its offices at the medical center because of the location's proximity to Indiana University's hospitals and to City Hospital (now Wishard). By the mid-1940s, the State Board of Health had outgrown the building, and began construction on a new facility. When its new building opened in 1949, Indiana University obtained the old facility, renamed it Fesler Hall, and began to use the space for offices. 1
During her years in medical administration, Doris Merritt, an assistant dean, and later associate dean, in the Indiana University School of Medicine, had an office in Fesler Hall. Through the years, as Merritt took on other administrative posts outside the School of Medicine, her office moved to the Administrative Building on N. Lansing St.
Doris H. Merritt
"Doris Merritt, n.d.," UA24-007732,
IUPUI Special Collections and Archives
As the first female assistant dean at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Doris Merritt earned a lasting reputation as one of the medical school's, and later IUPUI's, most competent administrators. After graduating with her bachelor's degree, Merritt served in the U.S. Navy before deciding to study medicine. Merritt completed her residency in pediatrics, but after moving to Maryland to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with her husband in 1957, found that the only available position for her was as executive secretary of the cardiovascular study section in the Division of Research Grants. Merritt quickly found that she loved administrative work. 2
In 1961, Merritt and her husband left NIH and accepted positions at Indiana University School of Medicine. She became the director of medical research grants and contracts and an assistant professor of pediatrics. The following year, Merritt became assistant dean for medical research. Under Merritt's guidance, the university obtained millions of dollars for the medical school's construction and research projects. When Merritt arrived at the School of Medicine, there were only a small handful of women physicians on the faculty, and of these women, she was the only administrator. Over the years, Merritt witnessed a considerable change, as numerous female faculty now work at the medical school. 3
As the Indiana University (IU) extension campus began to grow and explore a merger with Purdue University Indianapolis, Merritt was asked in 1965 to serve as assistant dean of research for the entire IU Indianapolis campus. Merritt retained this position after the merger of Indiana University and Purdue University took place in 1969, although her actual title changed several times. 4
In IUPUI's early years, faculty took on many different roles in order to help the university grow. Besides securing a grant for urban universities, Merritt initiated a committee to investigate campus development. Along with Miriam Langsam, Merritt organized seminars to help Purdue and IU faculty get acquainted, and also issued a report of recommendations to the chancellor. 5
In 1978, Merritt and her husband left Indianapolis and returned to NIH. There, she served as special assistant to the director for research training and resources. In 1986, following the creation of the National Center for Nursing Research, Merritt was appointed the center's first director to set up the research center. She held this position for one year. 6
Following her husband's death, in 1988 Merritt returned to the IU School of Medicine as a professor of pediatrics and associate dean. At this time, she did not have an actual job description, but instead took on the role of "the dean who did what needed doing". This included supervising the clinical research center, animal research, and the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Then, in 1995, due to an unexpected resignation from the dean of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI, university administrators asked Merritt to take the position as acting dean. She may have been an unlikely candidate, but Merritt's leadership skills and ability to interact with many different types of people made her an appealing choice. As Merritt later explained, "Because I was mature, I got shoved in a lot of positions where there were conflicts and controversy and they needed somebody with a reasonably cool head…" Merritt accepted the challenge, and became the first woman dean of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. During her year as dean, she helped the engineering faculty obtain approval from Purdue University for a bioengineering program and also helped gain approval to teach doctoral level engineering courses at IUPUI. 7
After retiring as the Dean of Engineering and Technology, Merritt served for a year as Acting Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies before finally retiring from IUPUI in 1998. Because of her dedication to medicine and to IUPUI, three awards have been named in her honor. 8
1 Thurman Rice, History of the Medical Campus (Indianapolis: n.p., 1949), 236-239.
2 Oral History Interview, Doris Merritt, 17 July 2007. Copies on file at the Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, IUPUI.
4 Ibid; Doris Merritt CV, copy on file with oral history inverview.
5 Oral History Interview, Doris Merritt, 17 July 2007.
8 Ibid; "Doris H. Merritt, Honorary Member, Indiana University Alliance of Distinguished and Titled Professors," http://www.indiana.edu/~alldrp/members/merritt.html, Accessed 21 February 2007.