Fifty years ago, on March 5, 1971, the University Faculty Council received a letter proposing that Indiana University establish a new academic unit “concerned generally with the problems of human society that transcend particular disciplines and especially those of man-environment relationships.”
The accompanying report makes the case for the School of Public and Environmental Affairs:
There is growing evidence throughout the State, (and throughout the Nation as well), that people would like to see the universities dealing more effectively and dispassionately with the needs and problems of modern society. Nearly every major problem confronting modern society cuts across disciplinary and professional boundaries. The ability of society to cope with these problems depends, in part, upon … the marshalling of knowledge and its translation into findings and propositions useful to the voter, the public official, and the concerned citizen.
The report concludes:
The main advantage of a School of Public and Environmental Affairs is to permit flexibility … to make use of talent, wherever it exists, to work toward solution of difficult, complicated public problems, particularly those of human behavior in relation to the human environment, both natural and made by man.
The school was founded the following year in 1972. Now, five decades later, the O’Neill School is recognized as a world leader in public and environmental affairs and boasts an alumni network of more than 36,000 around the world.