Dear Friend of Indiana University:

This past weekend marked the start of the state’s largest annual recognition of academic achievement with commencements on Indiana University’s two largest campuses.

More than 15,300 students at IU Bloomington and IUPUI received nearly 16,000 degrees, representing record graduating classes on both campuses. By the time this week ends, nearly 21,000 IU degrees will be conferred to our newest Hoosier alumni across eight campuses—far and away the largest group of graduates to be produced by any institution in Indiana—and their success will be viewed by over 100,000 family and friends.

Our newest graduates hail from all 50 states and 128 countries, and range in age from 18 to 71. One in four was a first generation college student and the graduates reflect the increasing diversity of our student body, exemplified by the inspirational group of eight African American women who received their doctoral degrees from the IU School of Education last weekend.

By itself, the sheer size of IU’s student body reflects the enormous value people place on an Indiana University education. It also is a constant reminder of the unique role IU continues to play in creating and advancing the educational, intellectual, economic, social and cultural fabric of the Hoosier state.

Quantity alone, however, doesn’t begin to define the extraordinary work being done across our campuses, where every day tens of thousands of bright and motivated students are taught by a faculty that includes some of the best minds in academia. Each year, the best of our faculty and students are recognized for the quality of their work in myriad ways—and this year has been no exception.

It would be a nearly impossible task to list every individual, department, school or university organization that earned accolades from its peers in the past academic year, but I did want to share some particularly noteworthy accomplishments from the recently concluded academic year.

Students shine in the classroom, artistic stages, athletic fields

As many of you are aware, international education is an area of central emphasis at Indiana University. Indeed, IU is among the national leaders in study abroad programs, and expanding opportunities for our students to gain invaluable experience studying outside the United States is a very high priority for us.

With that in mind, I am especially proud of the fact that IU ranks among the top 10 universities in the country this year for Fulbright award winners. Nineteen IU Bloomington students, representing the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Informatics and Computing and the Jacobs School of Music, received Fulbright awards to conduct research or to teach English outside the United States.

Each of this group of highly accomplished and talented students has chosen to continue their education in one of 15 countries across Europe, Asia and Latin America. In addition, two IU Bloomington doctoral students received coveted Fulbright-Hays grants to conduct dissertation research outside the United States. Sarah Foss, who is studying history, will travel to Guatemala, while Sarah Monson will go to Ghana to conduct anthropological research.

Three other IU Bloomington students were awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarships this year. These awards go to undergraduates studying science, mathematics and engineering, and eligible applicants must be sophomores or juniors with a minimum 3.8 GPA. Taylor Ball, a junior from Marion, Ind., is earning dual degrees in mathematics and computer science, and plans to pursue his Ph.D. in mathematics; Michael Peters, a junior from Munster, Ind., is earning degrees in astronomy/astrophysics, mathematics and physics, and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics after graduation; Hannah Busey, a sophomore from Bloomington, is pursuing a degree in biology and plans to earn a doctorate in biology.

At IUPUI, Emily Storkman, a School of Nursing senior, and Ayodamola Otun, a School of Science junior, were named the most outstanding female and male students for 2016. The pair was chosen by a panel of alumni, faculty and staff from more than 2,000 nominations for the campus’ annual Top 100 Outstanding Students recognition. IU South Bend sophomore nursing student Desmond Atem was awarded a 2016 Newman Civic Fellows award for his leadership and dedication to public service. The College Compact, a national non-profit organization that promotes public service among college students, gives the award.

Four IU School of Medicine students: Teresa Easwaran, Alexander Kokini , Nathanael Moore and Ashley Riley, were among 66 medical and veterinary students nationally to receive prestigious yearlong research fellowships from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2016.

IU has long been known for its commitment to the arts and humanities, and our students across a highly diverse range of artistic disciplines received recognition for their work this past year.

Our accomplished African American Choral Ensemble, under the direction of faculty member Raymond Wise, is currently in the midst of a weeklong trip to Germany, where it will perform series of concerts, including an appearance at the prestigious biennial Musica Sacra International Festival Workshop in Marktoberdorf.

The African American Choral Ensemble celebrated its 40th anniversary during the 2015-16 academic year. The ensemble sings not only traditional and contemporary gospel music but also a broad repertoire of spirituals, folk songs and formally composed choral works by African American composers. The group is one of three performance ensembles within the African American Arts Institute, a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs.

Here are just a few other examples of outstanding artistic achievement by our students:

  • Adam Henze, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education at IU Bloomington and a touring poet, was named the official poet of the Indianapolis 500 this year as the race revived a 1920s tradition as part of its 100th anniversary celebration.
  • Ari Barack Fisher, a master’s composition student at the Jacobs School, won the inaugural Jon Vickers Film Scoring Award, named for the director of IU Cinema. Fisher has already written two full musical scores for silent films, including the score for the classic “The Return of Draw Egan,” which was performed at a screening on campus in February.
  • 2015 School of Informatics and Computing graduates—and twins—Joyce and Jean Bevins are having their film “My Dear Arthur” screened at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is one of 30 titles Campus MovieFest is taking to the prestigious event in France. The Bevins twins did their work while finishing up their studies at IU as part of the Campus MovieFest program that lends free laptops and camcorders to college students around the country so they can complete films within a week.

Not to be outdone, our student-athletes had another outstanding year on the playing field and in the classroom, with record performances and national recognition coming to a number of our athletes and teams.

Freshman Lilly King highlighted an historic season for the IU women’s swim program by setting the American records in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events at the NCAA championships. In doing so, she became the first Hoosier female swimmer to win multiple national titles at a single NCAA championship and her performance led the Hoosiers—coached by reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year Ray Looze—to a seventh-place finish, their best ever. Lilly is among the favorites to make the U.S. Olympic swim team this summer.

The IU football team continued to make solid progress on the field this season, earning a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl, the team’s first bowl appearance since 2007. The team was led by three NFL draftees, first-team All-American offensive tackle Jason Spriggs, first-team All-Big Ten running back Jordan Howard and all-time IU passing leader quarterback Nate Sudfeld, as well as All-American offensive lineman Dan Feeney, who will return this fall for his senior season.

On the basketball court, the Hoosiers enjoyed another outstanding season, highlighted by our second outright Big Ten championship in four years and an appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16. The Hoosiers were led by All-American point guard Kevin ‘Yogi’ Ferrell, who leaves IU as the all-time leader in assists and among the top performers in a number of other statistical categories. Men’s coach Tom Crean and women’s coach Teri Moren were both named Big Ten Coach of the Year after leading their teams to strong conference finishes and NCAA tournament berths. IU wrestler Nate Jackson earned All-American honors by placing fifth in the NCAA championships in the 174-pound weight class.

At IUPUI, senior volleyball star Kaitlyn Hickey was named 2015 Summit League Player of the Year and earned honorable mention All-American honors for the second consecutive year, while the men’s cross country team won its second straight league title. At IU Kokomo, junior cross country runner Tyler Lucas is playing a leadership role of a different sort. Tyler, a business major, was elected chair of the NAIA Association of Student Athletes, which serves as the student voice for all NAIA athletes. Tyler is one of the inaugural group of 27 members selected for the association and will serve a two-year term as chairman of the group.

Cultivating a world-class faculty

Our faculty lies at the heart of everything we do at Indiana University. Their expertise, passion and commitment are central to the success the university has enjoyed for nearly 200 years and their work provides the foundation for IU’s outstanding national and global reputation.

Each year, our faculty members leave an indelible mark on our students as well as on their respective fields of study. At an institution that generates over half a billion dollars in research funding every year, the collective impact of our faculty is nothing short of astonishing, but I would like to share some particularly noteworthy recognition from the past year.

Robert Goldstone, a Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, was this spring selected for membership to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest honorary societies. Professor Goldstone is one of the world’s foremost researchers and thought leaders on cognitive sciences, and has received numerous national honors for his work over the past 25 years. In addition, two IU alumni—classical pianist Jeremy Denk and psychologist John Monahan—also were among this year’s inductees.

IU Distinguished Professor and alumnus Richard DiMarchi added to his voluminous resume of national and international accolades this year by being elected to the National Academy of Medicine. DiMarchi, one of the world’s leading peptide chemists and the holder of more than 100 patents, is the founder or co-founder of a number of biopharmaceutical companies. DiMarchi, who joined the faculty at IU in 2003 after a distinguished career as a research scientist at Eli Lilly and Co., also is a 2015 member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

IU creative writing professor Ross Gay earned one of the most prestigious awards given to poets this spring when he was named the 2016 recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, which is designed to support the work of outstanding mid-career poets. Gay, who serves as associate director of the English department’s Creative Writing program, joined the IU faculty in 2007. He is the author of three books of poetry, and his latest collection, “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award as well as the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award.

And, of course, any conversation about faculty excellence on the IU Bloomington campus would be incomplete without noting the continued superb work of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, which this year ascended to the top spot in the influential U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings. The school, under the leadership of Dean John Graham, has long been among the best of its class in the country, but this latest recognition is truly something worth celebrating.

At IUPUI, Florence W. Roisman, Chancellor’s Professor at the IU McKinney School of Law, received the David B. Bryson Award from the National Housing Law Project and the Housing Justice Network, and was one of 10 professors from the United States who received an award from the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Trust. Gabriel M. Filippelli, professor of geology, was named a fellow of the International Association of GeoChemistry, and Marilyn J. Bull, clinical professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine, was recognized as a 2015 White House Transportation Champion of Change.

Lawrence Einhorn, M.D., distinguished professor, Livestrong Foundation Professor of Oncology and professor of medicine, has been named one of "The 50 Most Influential Physicians in History" by Medscape. Dr. Einhorn, who developed the cure for testicular cancer 40 years ago, now focuses his research efforts on lung cancer. Flora Hammond, M.D., chair of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Covalt Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, has been awarded the 2016 Robert L. Moody Prize for Distinguished Initiatives in Brain Injury Research and Rehabilitation, awarded by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, the Transitional Learning Center of Galveston, and the UTMB Center for Rehabilitation Sciences.

Across our regional campuses, faculty members continue to do outstanding work to bring a quality IU education to communities around the state. Here are just some examples:

  • At IU Kokomo, Michael Finkler, associate professor of biology, was named a fellow at the Indiana Academy of Science in recognition of his contributions to the advancement of science in the state of Indiana.
  • At IU Southeast, professor of education James Hollenbeck was named the first Fulbright Research Chair at Lakehead University in Orillia, Ontario, Canada, while geosciences professor Gerald Ruth was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the governor of the state of Indiana.
  • At IU South Bend, professor of sociology Mike Keen also was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Mike Pence. Two faculty members—associate professor and chair of the decision sciences department Gary Kern and Mark Bradford, a lecturer in the business school, received President’s Awards for Teaching from the university.
  • At IU East, Tonya Breymier, associate dean for the graduate nursing programs, was recognized for her outstanding service activities by earning both the IU East Distinguished Service Award and the university wide Elizabeth Lion Service Award given by the IU School of Nursing.
  • At IU Northwest, Diane Larson, senior lecturer in computer information systems, received a President’s Award for Teaching, while retiring dean of the school of business and economics Anna Rominger was awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash. Zoran Kilibarda, chair of the Department of Geosciences, received the campus’ Distinguished Scholarship and Creative Activity Award.

Honorary degrees, distinguished alumni speakers highlight commencement

The commencement season often offers the chance for the university to bring back and recognize prominent alumni and others for their achievements. This year we were delighted to present Curtis R. Simic, president emeritus of the Indiana University Foundation and a nationally recognized leader in fundraising for higher education and foundation management, with an honorary Doctorate of Human Letters degree at the IU Bloomington undergraduate ceremony. Curt’s lifelong commitment to IU and his extraordinary contributions will benefit the university for decades to come.

Alumnus Jamie Hyneman, a special effects expert and inventor best known as co-host and executive producer of the popular TV show "MythBusters," returned to campus to deliver an engaging commencement address at IU Bloomington to our undergraduates. Hyneman is a former survival expert, charter boat captain, diver, film effects specialist, engineer and inventor as well as a TV host and producer. He has an IU degree in Russian language and linguistics through the Individualized Major Program in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Attorney, civic servant, philanthropist and Indiana University alumnus Michael S. "Mickey" Maurer delivered the commencement address for our graduate students at IU Bloomington and was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the ceremony. Mickey's legacy as a community leader and philanthropist serves as a sterling example to all of us and we are fortunate to be one of the many beneficiaries of his generosity, most notably his contributions to the law school in Bloomington that now bears his name.

IUPUI’s commencement ceremony included an address from Eli Lilly & Co. President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board John C. Lechleiter, who helped inaugurate the campus’ new commencement location, Lucas Oil Stadium, by becoming the first outside commencement speaker at IUPUI. In 2013, Indiana University awarded Lechleiter an honorary doctorate in recognition of his contributions to pharmaceutical science and his industry leadership.

At this year’s IUPUI ceremony, the campus awarded an honorary doctorate to Robert Schrier, a world-renowned nephrologist whose honors also include being a recipient of the IU School of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus Award.

At IU East, the campus honored with honorary degrees two longtime political leaders from the region who have championed higher education throughout their careers. Dick Bodicker, Democractic state representative from 1986 to 2002, and Allen Paul, Republican state senator from 1986 to 2014, combined their efforts to show bipartisan support for the important role IU East and all our regional campuses play in encouraging economic development, retaining and recruiting talent and further aiding the overall quality of life of their communities.

And at IU Kokomo, we recognized the extraordinary generosity of former Chancellor Ruth J. Person, who has committed an estate gift of $3.5 million, the largest gift ever to the campus. Person, IU Kokomo chancellor from 1999 to 2008, has directed that the gift be used for student scholarships to promote four-year graduation of future generations of students.

Normally, I would apologize for an update of this considerable length, but as you can see 2015-2016 represented another outstanding year for Indiana University. I continue to be impressed by the remarkable people with whom I work every day, and their passion for this university, our students and their research.

We are already looking ahead to a summer that will include the announcement of our first Grand Challenges research award recipient in June and to the excitement of the next academic year.

In that spirit, I would like to take to moment to offer my sincerest thanks for your generous and ongoing support for Indiana University as we near the completion of 200 years of service to our great state.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie
President, Indiana University