A Great History and a Brilliant Future: IU’s Distinguished and Titled Faculty

Alliance of Distinguished and Titled Professors
Alumni Hall
Indiana Memorial Union
IU Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
September 30, 2013


Thank you, Lauren [Robel]. Laurie and I are very pleased to be here this evening to celebrate the great strength of Indiana University’s most distinguished faculty. You are the very essence of excellence at Indiana University, and I am honored to be counted among your members.

I am delighted that four members of the IU Board of Trustees could be with us this evening. I will ask them to stand as I introduce them, and I ask that you please hold your applause until all are introduced.

With us tonight are:

  • the chair of the Trustees, Tom Reilly;
  • the Vice Chair of the Trustees, MaryEllen Bishop and her husband Michael;
  • Bill Cast;
  • and our student Trustee, Janice Farlow.

Please help me in welcoming them.

I am also very pleased that two former trustees are with us this evening. Please join me in welcoming PA Mack and Sue Talbot.

And let me let me add my thanks to Sue’s sister, Janet Black, for her years of service and my best wishes to her in retirement.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank both Caty Pilachowski and Howard Edenberg for their leadership of the Alliance.  Would you help me thank them both?

I am also very pleased to congratulate the newest members of the Alliance, and I look forward to their presentations later this evening.

The Invigorating Spirit of the Faculty

In an address to the university community delivered almost exactly 40 years ago, IU’s 14th president, John Ryan, began by summarizing the serious challenges facing the university at the time. The State of Indiana was experiencing a painful economic downturn, the nation was on the brink of recession, and the university faced deep budget cuts and pressure to limit proposed fee increases that would have helped to offset those cuts. President Ryan noted that the university also faced questions from a diverse array of critics about issues ranging from the rigor of IU’s undergraduate curriculum to whether the university was vigorous enough in pruning the catalog of obsolete degrees and the curriculum of unnecessary courses.

The scenario President Ryan described may sound familiar to those of you who have been in higher education for many years, just as it may to our newer faculty colleagues.

But in that environment, in 1973, President Ryan underscored the fact that, despite the challenges and criticisms he had described, Indiana University had enormous internal vitality, and there was no cause for despair.

“Indiana University is, first and foremost, a place of scholarship, a place of learning, a place of pursuit of wisdom and truth,” he said.  “… The university is the collective devotion, wisdom, and invigorating spirit of the faculty, using all resources at their command—the libraries, the laboratories, the time, the facilities—to the benefit of our students.”1

Four decades later, the sentiment expressed by President Ryan is as true as ever.

Indiana University is the collective devotion, wisdom, and invigorating spirit of the faculty.

You, and your accomplishments, truly are the essence of this great university.

A Great History of Outstanding Faculty at IU

Over the years, Indiana University’s community of dedicated and outstanding scholars has included or been associated with eight Nobel Prize winners, 14 Pulitzer Prize winners, and six MacArthur Fellows. We were all pleased to learn, just last week, that Jeremy Denk, a concert pianist who is an alumnus of the Jacobs School of Music and who has served on the school’s faculty, became IU’s latest MacArthur Fellow. And also last week, we learned that Distinguished Professor Emerita Martina Arroyo will be honored at the Kennedy Center Honors this winter—a remarkable recognition of her musical and academic achievements.

Currently, IU is home to around 50 active and emeritus members of the major national scholarly academies—the National Academy of Science, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences—and more than a dozen members of prestigious international academies.

And gathered in this room this evening are some of the most distinguished scientists, scholars, artists, and teachers in the world as recognized by your peers.

Conclusion: Past and Present Intellectual Leadership

Next week, Laurie and I will host the annual Academic Excellence Dinner, which honors all IU faculty, past and present, who are members of major national academies, Pulitzer Prize, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Award winners. We will also honor the 12 new inductees into the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This marks the second consecutive year that the AAAS has awarded the distinction of fellow to a record number of IU faculty members.

These artists and scholars represent the very best of Indiana University. They represent the long and rich history of this university and point to the brilliant future of continuing excellence towards which I know you direct yourselves every day with the greatest energy and determination.

You are all a part of that great history and that future.

The scientists, scholars, and artists in this room have shaped their disciplines over the course of many decades and will continue to shape those disciplines in the coming years.

I look forward to our shared future as—together—continue to pursue excellence in teaching, research, and creative activity at Indiana University.

Thank you very much.

Source Notes

  1. John W. Ryan, “Address to the University,” delivered October 25, 1973, IU Archives.