Rohe Track Era All About Us!


Dean L. R. Hesler

Former Liberal Arts Dean L. R. Hesler, who died in 1977, were delivered into the care of UT archivists.

Lexemuel Ray Hesler was a native of Indiana. He came to the University of Tennessee in 1919 from Cornell University, where he had been awarded the Ph.D. degree in 1914. At Knoxville, as professor and head of the botany department, he built a strong faculty, carried out his teaching and administrative duties, and somehow had time to engage in exhaustive research.

During his remarkable career he published more than one hundred scholarly articles and ten books. Mycology, the branch of botany dealing with fungi, was a principal research interest. His Mushrooms of the Great Smokies, probably his best known work, won two prizes for literary excellence in 1960.

From 1934 until his retirement in 1958, Dr. Hesler served the University as dean of Liberal Arts. It was in 1934 that a catastrophic fire swept Morrill Hall and destroyed his extensive fungi collection, his manuscripts for two books, and his large personal library. Undaunted by the disaster, Hesler gradually reassembled his fungi specimens and rewrote his books for publication. Even after retirement Dean Hesler continued his mycological research and publishing activities. Much of his later work was funded by the National Science Foundation. The L. R. Hesler Papers were delivered to the library through the good offices of Dr. Aaron J. Sharp, Hesler's friend and colleague. The papers, three shelf feet of materials, are a reflection of Dr. Hesler's life and career. These files document the life of a dedicated scholar - one who contributed greatly to the quality of education at The University of Tennessee. His papers are a valuable addition to the University Archives.

As befitted his position, Dean Hesler was active in many scholastic organizations and societies. He was a member of Sigma Xi, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Zeta, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Mycological Society of America, and the Tennessee Academy of Science. His awards included an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Wabash College, in 1953. He was also honored in 1968 on the occasion of his eightieth birthday with a mycological symposium at UT which attracted the participation of scientists from throughout the world.

In addition to his scientific pursuits, Dr. Hesler held an abiding interest in music and sports. He pitched for a semi-professional baseball team in New York during the summers of 1912 and 1913 and in Puerto Rico while doing research for the U. S. government in 1917. He helped to organize and coach the first UT track team in 1921 and was a member of the Athletics Council from 1924 until his retirement. An ardent sports fan, Hesler attended the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles and the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He assembled scrapbooks of Olympic memorabilia from each of these trips, as well as from the 1968 Olympics. The scrapbooks were placed in the library a number of years ago. His interest in music was manifested by his service on the University Concerts Board and by his advocacy for formation of the Department of Fine Arts.

L. R. Hesler Award for Excellence in Teaching and Service

In 1982, the L.R. Hesler Award for Excellence in Teaching and Service was established to honor Dr. L. R. Hesler, a man known for his outstanding teaching abilities and his service to the University community. Dr. Hesler was an internationally respected scientist and for many years was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Recipients of the Hesler Award have been outstanding professors whose genuine interest in students and contributions to UTK has exemplified the traits for which Dr. Hesler was best known. A recipient is selected in early spring and announced at the Chancellor’s Honors Banquet. Last year’s total award was $12,000.