Outstanding Leadership and Service in Higher Education

Honoring Mary Sue Coleman
Commencement Dinner
Federal Room
Indiana Memorial Union
IU Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
December 20, 2013

Toast Before Dinner

I am delighted to welcome you all to this evening of celebration in honor of our distinguished guest, the president of the University of Michigan, Mary Sue Coleman. We will have more formal remarks a little later in the evening.

Now would you please join me in raising your glasses to one of the most distinguished leaders in higher education—Mary Sue Coleman, who has led the University of Michigan through some of its most transformative moments, and who was described by a University of Michigan student government leader as “a remarkable human being.”

After you all get to know her tonight and after you hear her remarks at tomorrow’s Commencement ceremony, I know you will share that assessment.

To Mary Sue Coleman.

Please enjoy your meal.

Welcome And Acknowledgements

I want to thank you all again for coming this evening.

We are delighted that so many distinguished guests could join us this evening.

Laurie and I are pleased to welcome our Indiana University Trustees. We are joined tonight by the chair of the trustees, Tom Reilly; vice chair MaryEllen Bishop, and her husband Michael; Phil Eskew; Pat Shoulders; and Janice Farlow, our student Trustee.

Would you join me in welcoming them?

I am also very pleased to welcome Mary Sue Coleman’s husband, Ken, who is a political scientist specializing in Latin American studies. Please join me in welcoming Ken Coleman.

Introducing Mary Sue Coleman

Tonight, I am very pleased to say a few words about our distinguished guest, Mary Sue Coleman, who has announced her intention to retire as president of the University of Michigan in July 2014. Her long and distinguished career as a scientist and as a leader in higher education has included outstanding service at the national level.

She became the 13th president of the University of Michigan—and the university’s first female president—in 2002.

She earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Grinnell College and her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina. She went on to build a distinguished research career as a biochemist through her research on the immune system and malignancies. She served for 19 years as a member of the biochemistry faculty at the University of Kentucky, where she also served as director of the cancer research center.

Mary Sue later joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she served as associate provost and dean of research—and later as vice chancellor for graduate studies and research. She also served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico. And she went on to serve as president of the University of Iowa from 1995 to 2002.

She is now the fourth-longest-serving president in the history of the University of Michigan and is widely regarded as one of the leading voices in higher education.

In 2009, in fact, she was named by TIME magazine as one of the 10 Best College Presidents.

President Coleman’s tenure at the University of Michigan has been described as one of the most transformative presidencies in the university’s history.

Despite disinvestment in higher education by the state (a situation with which all public universities are familiar), she has launched several major initiatives that are having—and will continue to have—an enormous positive impact on future generations of students, the intellectual life of the university, and society at large.

She has expanded the University of Michigan’s international partnerships with universities in China, Ghana, South Africa, and Brazil.

On a personal note, Laurie and I have indelible memories of a visit we made to Israel with a delegation of American university presidents and their spouses that Mary Sue jointly led with then-president of the University of California, Mark Yudof. We travelled widely throughout Israel and the West Bank, and, as you can imagine, frequently found ourselves in what could be described as challenging situations. And Mary Sue and Mark led our delegation with great diplomatic skill and tact.

At Michigan, Mary Sue also led “The Michigan Difference,” a campaign to raise $2.5 billion for the future of the university. At its conclusion in December 2008, the campaign total was $3.2 billion—including a number of eight-figure gifts. The $3.2 billion total was the most ever raised by a public university.

Mary Sue was also at the forefront of the Google Book Search Project, as the University of Michigan was one of the initial partners in this ambitious project to scan and make searchable the collections of a number of the major research libraries. IU also became a partner in the project, along with Big Ten institutions.

President Coleman has also given outstanding service on the national level. President Barack Obama chose her as one of six university presidents to help launch the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national effort bringing together industry, universities and the federal government to revitalize American manufacturing through investment in and development of emerging technologies.

And in 2010, then-U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke named her co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

She is the former chair of the prestigious Association of American Universities, and she also served as chair of the Board of Trustees of Internet2, a position I currently hold.

She is also a member of the Institute of Medicine, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She co-chaired a major policy study of the Institute of Medicine, examining the consequences of lack of access to health insurance, and she has become a nationally recognized expert on the issue.

She has also been one of the leading voices on college affordability. In 2011, she wrote an open letter to President Obama, commending him for calling attention to the issue. In the letter she wrote that, as a country, the United States must find ways to provide a college education at a cost that is sustainable, and she made a number of recommendations for reducing costs at colleges and universities around the country based on her experience at Michigan.

President Coleman has also been deeply committed to using the university’s strengths and economic influence to assist in the recovery and resurgence of the City of Detroit.

She holds at least 14 honorary degrees, including one received most recently from the University of Michigan’s cross-state rival, Michigan State University.

Tomorrow, of course, she will speak at our Winter Commencement ceremony, and I will have the privilege of presenting her with an honorary Indiana University degree.

Would you join me in welcoming one of the most influential and widely respected university leaders of our time, Mary Sue Coleman?

Mary Sue, would you like to say a few words?


Thank you, Mary Sue.

We look forward to hearing your remarks at our ceremony, as do our graduates.

Thank you all for coming this evening, and I look forward to seeing you at tomorrow’s Commencement ceremony.