The former chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology prioritized mentoring graduate students. Now, a fund created to support them ensures it will continue for years to come.

'He always wanted to know you as a person'

Over his three decades at IU School of Medicine, Jack Bauer provided steady mentorship to graduate students. Now, a fund created by the former chair for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology will help that spirit live on.

For more than 35 years, Jack Bauer, PhD, and his wife, Lois, saw graduate students within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology as an extension of their family.

They offered counsel in quiet conversations and steered them gently to labs where they might thrive. In return, students occasionally showed up in front of the Bauer’s home to serenade them with Christmas carols. And when Jack died a decade ago, many made a pilgrimage to the couple's retirement home in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin to pay respects.

"He always wanted to know you as a person," said Abigail Klemsz, MD’94, PhD’91. "It might be as simple as asking what are you doing this weekend? Whatever it was, he wanted to make sure that he was taking care of you in any way that he could."

The Bauers also sought to ensure they could support future scientists at Indiana University School of Medicine for decades to come. After Lois' death in February 2019, the school received a planned gift that endowed a chair within the department Bauer led for 15 years, established a medical student scholarship, and created the Lois and Dietrich C. Bauer Graduate Student Support Fund.

The couple's generosity reflected their deep loyalty. Hired by the School of Medicine in 1961, Bauer began his 35-year career as an assistant professor, teaching immunology to medical, dental, and graduate students. Seven years later, he was promoted to full professor.

From afar, Bauer might strike an aristocratic pose. He stood tall at the front of a lecture hall, clad in a crisp sport coat, tie perfectly knotted, and with a handsome brow. To some first-year medical students, the look was imposing. To Terry Hatch, MD’70, Bauer was a familiar face from home.

Growing up, Hatch's family was close to Lois and her mother. Their house was on his lawnmowing route. By the time he was applying to medical school, Jack and Lois had married. Jack's presence was a chief reason Hatch considered IU, and their chat during his interview at IU sold him on coming to Indianapolis.

"While I was a student, he was kind of a mentor," Hatch said. "In a lot of ways, our visits were probably mundane. We just chatted about what was going on in our lives. I think he sensed I didn't need much academic advising, but he was always warm and gracious."

Outside the classroom, Bauer's work in the lab detailed proteins that play a critical role in an immune response. And young faculty could count on seeing Bauer sitting in on lectures and offering helpful notes afterward.

After several stints as interim chair, Bauer took on the role full time in 1981, using the position to free up money in the budget to recruit more graduate students and to boost faculty recruitment. Bauer's steady rise through the ranks influenced his administrative approach. He didn't micromanage. He asked what faculty required. In return, he expected each to pull their weight when it came to teaching and service.

It made an immediate impression on Michael Klemsz, PhD, whom Bauer recruited to IU in 1991. On his visit, Klemsz went through the usual recruitment rituals: meeting faculty, giving a seminar, and enjoying a fine dinner. But his chat with Bauer had the most pull. "He was very professional but also warm," said Klemsz, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, who met his future wife, Abigail, in the department. "Sometimes, scientists and faculty are a little bit aloof, but he wanted to know about me, my interests, and where I was coming from."

The same held for masters and doctoral students. In Bauer's eyes, they were not just an extra set of hands in the lab. Nor were they merely there to follow orders. His avid interest in their welfare was as much a matter of practicality as it was empathy.

"Good training of graduate students is helping them learn how to become scientists," Michael Klemsz said. "That requires trial and error and letting them do experiments and guiding them slowly in the beginning so that they can find their footing. And then as they learn more, you keep reinforcing that."

For Abigail Klemsz, it meant supporting a change of direction. During the latter stages of her doctoral work, she decided to enroll in medical school, which some faculty questioned. Not Bauer.

"The chair of the department not only knows who you are, but what you want to do, and then throws their support behind you," recalled Klemsz, now assistant dean for academic advising.

Through the fund created by the Bauers, future graduate students will have access to resources to become the scientists they aspire to be, whether it's carrying out research or attending conferences that sow the seeds of collaboration.

"We all have an affinity for helping students," Hatch said. "But we also want them to understand where they come from. Jack was among the really great academics and clinicians at Indiana University School of Medicine. These gifts should help preserve that status."

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Matthew Harris

Matthew Harris is a communications specialist in the Office of Gift Development. Before joining the School of Medicine in 2015, he was a reporter at newspapers in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Louisiana. He currently lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two basset hounds.