Michael A. McRobbie became Indiana University’s eighteenth president on July 1, 2007. In making its unanimous decision to appoint him, the IU Board of Trustees cited McRobbie’s extensive record of accomplishment in various senior administrative roles at IU over 10 years as well as his strong academic credentials. They stated that McRobbie’s broad expertise in fostering research partnerships and his collaborative leadership style had contributed greatly to enhancing the educational and research missions of the university and to strengthening IU’s glorious traditions in the arts.
McRobbie is responsible for IU’s eight campus system which has a total budget of more than $3 billion, and more than 9,000 faculty, 11,000 staff, and nearly 115,000 students.
In his Inaugural Address, McRobbie set out a new vision for IU that stressed and reaffirmed IU’s fundamental mission of excellence in research and teaching to be achieved through a great faculty, responsive and relevant education, an enhanced global presence, expanded infrastructure, a rededication to the arts and humanities, and new initiatives in engagement and economic development.
He has led one of the largest academic transformations in the university’s history, a transformation that includes the creation of the Fairbanks School of Public Health in Indianapolis; the School of Public Health-Bloomington; the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the world’s first school of its kind; a newly configured School of Informatics and Computing; the School of Global and International Studies; the IU Media School; the School of Art and Design; and the launch of a major online initiative, IU Online.
As president, McRobbie has overseen the the completion of the $1.1 billion “Matching the Promise” endowment campaign at IU Bloomington, the $1.39 billion “IMPACT” campaign on the Indianapolis campus, and the launch of the university-wide “For All: the Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign” with a record goal of $2.5 billion to be raised by 2020.
McRobbie also oversaw the development of The Bicentennial Strategic Plan for Indiana University, a sweeping set of strategic initiatives that guide the university’s work across all campuses leading up to IU’s 200th anniversary in 2020. The plan provides a roadmap for IU’s efforts to remain among the best public research universities by redoubling its commitment in key areas associated with student success, faculty development, research, economic development, international engagement, and the health of Indiana residents.
McRobbie has also overseen one of the largest periods of renovation and construction of new facilities in Indiana University’s history. During his presidency, more than 70 major facilities have been constructed or renovated, including new or renovated space for the university’s new schools. The total value of these projects exceeds $2 billion, and approximately 70 percent of them have been funded by private or internal university sources.
McRobbie became IU’s vice president for information technology in 1997, and he led the university to national leadership in that field. This leadership was based on the IU Information Technology Strategic Plan, which he initiated and which is now considered a model for institutions across the nation. He also played a major role in the creation of the School of Informatics; directed the development of I-Light, the management of the Internet2 Abilene network and numerous other networks; and founded IU’s Pervasive Technology Laboratories, funded in 1999 by a grant of $30 million from the Lilly Endowment—then the largest research grant to IU from a private organization. As president, he has directed the preparation of IU’s new IT Strategic Plan. His efforts in information technology were recognized when he was named one of the Premier 100 IT leaders by Computerworld Magazine.
In May 2003, McRobbie took on additional responsibilities as vice president for research. His aim was to improve the environment for research at IU by increasing external funding, expanding research space and facilities, and improving research support services. He was instrumental in securing a $53 million grant from the Lilly Endowment for the Indiana Metabolomics and Cytomics Initiative (METACyt)—the largest grant ever obtained at IU Bloomington—and established the highly successful New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program, which supports the creation of major works of art in various genres. He initiated a study of IU’s research space needs, which will guide the development of new buildings and facilities under his presidency through the recently completed IU Master Plan, which he initiated.
McRobbie was appointed interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at IU Bloomington in 2006. In that position, he worked to rebuild academic leadership by appointing six new deans and a number of other key senior leaders, helped complete the IU Life Sciences Strategic Plan, further addressed the needs of arts and humanities programs, and oversaw the move of IU Bloomington to become a more selective campus, while ensuring that it remained accessible and affordable to low-income and minority students through a major increase in financial aid.
He also worked to reinvigorate IU’s global relationships that support the university’s international academic and educational programs. Over recent years he has led university delegations to China, Japan, India, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Korea, as well as visiting Israel, and has established or renewed cooperative agreements in research and education with several premier universities in those nations. He has also overseen the preparation of IU’s International Strategic Plan.
A native of Australia, McRobbie came to IU from the Institute of Advanced Study at the Australian National University (ANU), where he was a professor of information science and chief executive officer of the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Computational Systems. He earned a bachelor’s degree with first class honors from the University of Queensland and a doctoral degree from ANU. In 2007, the University of Queensland awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science. He has also received honorary doctorates from Sung Kyun Kwan University in Korea (2008); the Australian National University (2010); the South East European University in Macedonia (2011), which IU helped found; and Griffith University in Australia (2014).
McRobbie has been an active researcher in computer science and logic over his career. He has been principal investigator on numerous large grants from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, has published a number of books, and has served widely on editorial boards and conference committees.
He has had a substantial involvement in the development of the life and health sciences in Indiana and is a member of the Boards of Indiana University Health—one of the largest hospital systems in the United States—and the Riley Children’s Hospital, one of America’s leading children’s hospitals.
He has had extensive experience in working with industry and has led large university/industry joint initiatives in various areas. Outside of the United States, he has had special experience working with industry, research, and government organizations in Asia, especially in Japan, and was a co-founder of the Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) in 1996.
He has held numerous government, research, and private sector committee, board, and advisory appointments nationally and internationally. He serves as co-chair of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s Committee on the Future of Voting: Accessible, Reliable, Verifiable Technology. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. He is a former chair of the Board of Trustees of Internet2. He currently serves as a member of the Big 10 Athletic Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors, the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, and the Indianapolis Prize Executive Committee. He is the former chair of the Universities Research Association, which is responsible for Fermi Lab.
In addition to serving as IU’s top administrator, McRobbie is a professor of cognitive science, computer science, informatics, and philosophy and an adjunct professor of library and information science on the IU Bloomington campus. He is also a professor of computer technology in the Purdue School of Engineering and professor of philosophy both at IU Bloomington and Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).
In 2012, McRobbie became the first sitting IU president to be elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2007, he became the first sitting IU president to be named an honorary member of Indiana University’s Alliance of Distinguished and Titled Professors. Though his academic career has focused primarily on information technology, he has demonstrated a continuing strong interest in and commitment to the humanities, and he is an honorary fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities.
He holds numerous awards and honors. In 2007, he was made a Sagamore of the Wabash by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, the highest honor the state can bestow. In 2010, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia, Australia’s national honors system. In 2014, McRobbie received the Anti-Defamation League’s “Man of Achievement Award,” which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to community, justice, and equal opportunity for all. In 2015, the Australian National University honored him as Alumnus of the Year. In 2016, he received the International Center’s International Citizen of the Year Award, which honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the globalization of Indiana.
IU’s first lady, Laurie Burns McRobbie, is a native of Michigan. She has worked as a technologist for the last 20 years of her career, most recently serving as the executive director of member and partner relations for Internet2. She is an adjunct faculty member in IU’s School of Informatics and also has a background in the humanities and a long involvement in women’s issues. At IU she has used this extensive background to promote and advance scientific and mathematical literacy, particularly among groups who have historically been underrepresented in these fields. She has also continued her involvement in women’s issues and in community organizations such as Middle Way House.
The McRobbies were both widowed, and they have six children—three each by their first marriages. They are both avid readers, especially of history; they collect art and enthusiastically attend as many concerts, operas, and plays as they can, and both greatly enjoy working out. Both have traveled extensively internationally and enjoy the challenges of new countries and cultures.
Updated August 4, 2017