Have you ever walked the halls of the Honors House and wondered about its history? Have you ever thought that you were walking down the halls that house the oldest Honors College program in the state of Indiana? Have you ever wondered who spearheaded these immersive, discussion-based classes? Then come along for a journey to the past as we look at the Honors College Deans and their leadership through the years!


Dr. C. Warren Vanderhill 

Dr. Warren Vanderhill served as Director of the Ball State Honors Program in 1970. He later founded the Honors College at Ball State University in 1979 (the first Honors College in Indiana). In addition to founding the Honors College, Vanderhill created the Whitinger Scholars program and the Honors Undergraduate Fellows Program. Established in 1976, the Whitinger Scholarship is the most prestigious award that the university can offer to incoming first-year students in the Honors College. In 1986, Vanderhill was named Provost of Ball State University, although he has remained actively involved in the Honors College.

Vanderhill’s extensive education includes his Bachelor of Arts from Hope College, a Master of Arts from the University of Denver, and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Denver. A highly sought-after recruit for basketball, Vanderhill never left his love of the game behind, going on to write about the 1918-2003 Ball State Men’s Basketball program and its development. He has authored several other books as well, most about the historic immigration to Michigan and American society throughout the 20th century. His creation of the Honors College has allowed students to participate in immersive, discussion-based classes for nearly 50 years, and served as the basis for the formation of other Honors College programs across the state and across the nation.


Dr. Arno Wittig

In 1986, Dr. Arno Wittig was named as the first Dean of the Honors College.  He served in that role for a decade before being called back into service for two years following the unexpected passing of Honors Dean Bruce Meyer. Dr. Wittig, along with Provost Vanderhill, was instrumental in helping expand the Whitinger Scholarship to include both tuition funding and room and board. Dr. Wittig also oversaw the inclusion of global studies into the Honors curriculum, as well as moving the Honors College from the Whitinger Business Building to Burkhardt.

Outside of serving as the Dean of the Honors College at Ball State University, Wittig is known for his impressive athletic career. Dr. Wittig played college soccer as a fullback at the Hobart and William Smith Colleges, leading to his selection as a two-time All-New York Statesman. He also received his varsity letter in baseball. Later, Wittig pursued a master’s degree and a doctorate, both in psychology, from the Ohio State University. While at Ball State, Wittig was also a professor of psychology, assistant soccer coach, and the Head Soccer Coach for Ball State University. In addition, he published several books and was elected as a fellow in three divisions of the American Psychological Association. His impressive career is only one small demonstration of his ambition and dedication, both of which traits were used in his long and successful tenure with Ball State Honors College. To this day, Dr. Arno Wittig still works summers at the Honors College as part of the Honors Orientation, working with incoming freshmen to schedule their classes. He has impacted thousands of students across his time with Ball State and the Honors College and still continues to make a profound impact on students each year.


Dr. Bruce Meyer

Dean Bruce Meyer began as Dean of the Honors College in 1996 and served dutifully until his unexpected passing in 1998. While his term as Dean may have been short, his impact was not, and its lasting effects still make waves in the Honors College and its curriculum. He and his wife, Ildiko, are the namesake of the annual Bruce F. and Ildiko B. Meyer lecture series, which occurs each spring.

Meyer’s incredible academic career started right here in Indiana when he graduated from Kokomo High School before attending Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for his undergraduate. Meyer later also received his master’s and doctorate from the University of Utah. Aside from his tenure as Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Meyer was also a professor of architecture at Ball State and served in many capacities across campus including as Assistant to the Dean, Acting Associate Dean, and more. He was heavily honored and awarded throughout his time in academia. He received the Education Honors Award from the American Institute of Architects, was a Lilly Endowment Faculty Fellow, was named an Outstanding Young Faculty Member by Ball State University, and received the President’s Award from the Indiana Society of Architects.


Dr. James Ruebel

Dr. James Ruebel and his wife, Connie, were fixtures in the Honors College community for nearly two decades. Ruebel joined the Honors College as Dean in 2000, where he helped transform the Honors College into many of the staples that students and alumni are familiar with today, including moving the Honors College into the Ball Honors House, renovating Dehority Hall to serve as the Honors LLC, and hiring the first full-time honors faculty in the college. Travel and study abroad were always a passion of Dr. Ruebel, and he and Honors Professor Beth Dalton led multiple field studies to Rome and Italy so that students could explore art, history, architecture, and literature. Dr. Ruebel also took pride in mentoring students, often in one-on-one settings, so that each student felt at home in Honors, and was welcome to talk to him with his always-open office door.

While remembered as a lifelong learner, eternal tourist, and lover of fine wine and friends, Dr. Ruebel was also an incredible academic. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Cincinnati, all of which were in Classics and Ancient History. Dr. Ruebel was also an instructor at Cincinnati from 1972-1973, the University of Minnesota (1973-1978), and Iowa State University (1987-2000) before his tenure at the Ball State Honors College. As well as this, Dr. Ruebel served as the faculty representative to the NCAA and Mid-American Conference (2002-2013) and then on the National Collegiate Honors Council as Vice President (2002), President-Elect (2013), and President (2014). A published author, Dr. Ruebel wrote often about Roman history, including Apuleius: The Metamorphoses, Book 1 (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2000) and Caesar and the Crisis of the Roman Aristocracy (University of Oklahoma Press, 1994). In 1994, Dr. Ruebel was also awarded by the American Philological Association for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics. For many students, Dr. Ruebel is best known for his dedication to mentorship, support of students, and overseeing the renovation of the original Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball residence into the now-home of the Honors College.


Dr. John W. Emert 

Dr. John Emert served as Dean of the Honors College from 2017 until 2023 (after serving as Associate Dean for many years prior). He and his wife, Elizabeth, continue to be fixtures of the honors community and actively attend honors events and activities on campus. During Dr. Emert’s tenure as dean, he worked to expand and raise funds for the Emens Leadership Scholars Program. Many students may be familiar with his time here, but you can also find a detailed profile of Dr. Emert here.

Emert’s long-standing dedication to academics spans many years, and he obtained his own B.A. degrees in Mathematics and Music, his M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Tennessee, and his Ph.D. in Mathematics, all from the University of Tennessee. One fun fact about Dean Emert’s undergraduate years is that he was a member of UT Singers, a show choir group founded by the same person who founded Ball State’s University Singers. He has published 20 choral pieces and remains an avid proponent of mathematics and music. With his retirement at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year, he and his wife Elizabeth plan to travel the world. Dr. Emert left an incredible mark on Ball State University and our Honors College, and his term as Dean is remembered by students with love. As a Dean, he was an avid supporter of student welfare and well-being, a major advocate for academics and leadership, and an actively involved mentor for all students in the Honors College.


Dr. James Buss 

Fresh into his office as Dean of the Ball State University Honors College is Dr. James “Jim” Buss. Dr. Buss joined the Ball State University Honors College in the summer of 2023 upon the retirement of Dr. John Emert. His previous positions in academia include being a Visiting Instructor of History at Bowling Green State University, Director of the University Honors Program at Oklahoma City University, the Director of the Thomas E. Bellavane Honors Program at Salisbury University, and Dean of both the Honors College at Salisbury University and Northern Kentucky University. While at Northern Kentucky, Dean Buss demonstrated his commitment to excellence and inclusivity, resulting in a nearly 50 percent increase in applicants and enrollments- that’s a 50% increase in each! His work at Northern Kentucky also helped to double their program’s number of students from underserved populations through his new programming and coordinated care model.

Dr. James Buss prides himself as being a “historian by training and an honors educator by experience,” with interests including the intersections of settler memory, Native American history, and public commemoration. Dr. Buss’s academic qualifications include his bachelor’s degree in History and master’s degree in Policy History from Bowling Green State University, and his doctorate in History from Purdue University. Dr. Buss is an advocate for ESports, having founded the Northern Kentucky University’s varsity Esports program. He is also an award-winning educator, having been named to the “Top 25 Notable Leaders in Higher Education” list by Movers & Makers magazine in Cincinnati, earning recognition in the Greater Cincinnati Region within the “Up-and-Coming Younger Leaders” category, and has multiple award-winning publications. Two of these include authoring “Winning the West with Words: Language and Conquest in the Lower Great Lakes” (2011), co-editing “Beyond Two Worlds: Critical Conversations on Language and Power in Native North America” (November 2014), as well as numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. While he may be very new to his station, Dean Buss’s enthusiasm for the Honors College and Ball State University is palpable to any student who steps through his door.


Looking Back, Moving Forward

Now, when you walk the halls of the Honors House, you know about its history and all of those students and administration who have walked those very same halls before you. You know now who spearheaded the Honors College’s immersive, discussion-based classes, its dedicated field study and study abroad opportunities, and its scholarship offerings. The history of the Honors College is so incredibly deep, full of rich nuance and stories. We love to look back at them so we can see where we’ve been to move forward.

This year for One Ball State Day, the university’s day dedicated to giving and ensuring continued student support, the Honors College is focusing on reflection. With a new dean and several prominent members of the Honors College retiring over the past year, we seek to celebrate the past by honoring those who laid the foundation for what has become one of the oldest and most prestigious Honors Colleges in the nation. We love and celebrate our Honors College Deans, and we cherish their unique legacies.

There are multiple scholarships named for previous deans of the Honors College, and we suggest that you check them out, even if simply to learn more about what students say about their Honors experience or what each Dean is remembered for. Some of these scholarships include the C. Warren Vander Hill Scholarship for Honors Enhanced Experiences (for students to fund enhanced experiences, such as internships and paid research opportunities), the Arno Wittig Endowed Honors Scholarship (to fund the Whitinger Scholarship program for students), the Bruce and Ildiko Meyer Memorial Scholarship (for students experiencing financial need), the James Ruebel Honors Fellowships for International and Innovative Experiences (for Honors study abroad scholarships), the Emens Scholarship in Honor of Dean John W. Emert (to fund an Emens Leadership Scholarship), and the Honors College Endowed Scholarship in Honor of Cary and Susie Wood (named for Dr. Buss’s in-laws it will provide funding for a student pursuing a major in Education).

The Edmund and Virginia Ball Honors House Project is a new opportunity for this year. Thanks to a generous donor who has provided the initial funds to begin renovations of the Ball Honors House, the project is moving forward with designs to be available later this spring and into the summer. This Ball Honors House Project fund for giving on One Ball State Day helps complete that project, which will include an additional classroom, gathering spaces for students, additional offices, and an outdoor gathering space that will include a labyrinth. Additional funds will enable the Honors College to ensure that the spaces best serve students and provide upgraded facilities for faculty and staff.  Donors at the $500 level or above will receive recognition in the new space. Individuals who would like to sponsor named spaces in the new addition should reach out to the Honors College via honors@bsu.edu.

Outside of One Ball State Day, we also welcome gifts to the scholarships or funds named above. If you would like to make a donation to the scholarships or funds, please visit Honors College One Ball State Day 2024. If you have any questions or would like to make a donation outside of OBSD 2024, please email the Honors College, honors@bsu.edu, or Dean Buss, james.buss@bsu.edu, for more information.