IU celebrates Bicentennial, MLK Jr. Day with Day of Commemoration

From top: Academy Award-winning Actress Viola Davis receives an honorary doctorate from IU; President McRobbie gets a look at the inner workings of the Big Red 200 supercomputer; the new "Lux et Veritas" painting is unveiled. Photos by Alex Kumar and Chaz Mottinger

Indiana University marked its official 200th anniversary on Jan. 20 with a Day of Commemoration to celebrate the Bicentennial and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Indiana Governor Jonathan Jennings signed a bill into law on the same day in 1820 that created the Indiana Seminary, which was renamed Indiana University a few years later. The Day of Commemoration celebrated what's happened in the two centuries since then, and what's ahead for the university.

"The stories of Indiana University are the stories of its people—the students, faculty, and staff who have helped to build and sustain the university," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said during a Bicentennial Anniversary Luncheon. "For 200 years, the faculty and staff members of this great university have not only been responsible for the day-to-day operations without which the university could not function, they have also helped to build at Indiana University a closely-knit university community with a tradition of mutual respect and commitment."

Big Red 200's decorative panels are covered in the names of more than 300 academic disciplines that will benefit from its enormous computational capacity. Alex Kumar, Indiana University

The day of celebration started with the dedication of Big Red 200, IU's artificial intelligence supercomputer — the fastest supercomputer in the state. It's almost 300 times faster than the original Big Red supercomputer from 15 years ago. 

"Big Red 200’s impressive AI capabilities will allow IU researchers to understand phenomena in the natural world that simply cannot be understood otherwise—and to make breakthrough discoveries in a wide range of research areas, including the early detection of breast cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's," McRobbie said during the ceremony.

It would take the entire population of the state of Indiana more than 28 years—performing one calculation per second around the clock—to perform the same number of calculations that Big Red 200 can perform in just one second.

The bells of the Arthur R. Metz Bicntennial Grand Carillon rang 200 times to celebrate IU's 200th anniversary.  Eric Rudd, Indiana University

People could also hear IU's alma mater playing from the upgraded Arthur R. Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon on Jan. 20. The university recently moved the instrument and its tower to the IU Cox Arboretum in the center of campus. The adddition of four new bells makes it one of fewer than 30 grand carillons in the world. 

Members of the Jacobs School of Music tolled the bells 200 times to recognize IU's Bicentennial. 

"Megajeff" will remain on display for several weeks before starting a tour of IU campuses. Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University

McRobbie also introduced a reproduction of Megalonyx Jeffersoni, known as "Megajeff", at Franklin Hall. Researchers from IU's Indiana Geological and Water Survey reconstructed the giant ground sloth's skeleton. The original skeleton was once on display as part of IU's early teaching and research collections. 

"Housed in Science Hall on the original Seminary Square campus, the skeleton was thought to be the most complete skeleton of the species ever recovered," McRobbie said during the ceremony. "It survived a devastating fire in 1883 that destroyed much of IU's natural history collection, and it was moved to the Dunn’s Woods campus, where it was on display for many years in Owen Hall. Unfortunately, shortly after World War II, much of the skeleton was disposed of along with a number of other specimens in what was called 'the Great Housecleaning.'"

Researchers pieced together scans of five surviving bones from the original specimen and scans of bones from other universities and museums to recreate the skeleton. It's on temporary display at Franklin Hall before traveling to other IU campuses. 

McRobbie speaks during IU's 200th anniversary luncheon, where he unveiled two new allegorical paintings.  Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University
The paintings interpret the university's Latin motto, Lux et Veritas, which translates to "light and truth." Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University

Two new paintings are also on display inside Presidents Hall. The IU Office of the Bicentennial commissioned them to represent IU's Latin motto, Lux et Veritas. 

Professor Emerita Bonnie Sklarski of IU's Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design spent two years creating the paintings. 

"I had the pleasure of visiting Professor Sklarski’s studio while she was creating these works over the last two years, so I had seen these superb paintings prior to today as they developed—but it is wonderful to see them here in their permanent home," McRobbie said. "I am struck with how they give a sense of completeness to this room and are a most fitting artistic tribute to Indiana University's Bicentennial."

McRobbie presented Sklarski with a Bicentennial Medal to recognize her career at IU and the paintings. 

Actress Viola Davis gave a keynote lecture as part of the Day of Commemoration. President McRobbie also presented her with an honorary doctorate. Alex Kumar, Indiana University

The Day of Commemoration culminated with a keynote lecture from Academy Award-winning Actress Viola Davis at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Davis is the first black actor to win acting's triple crown – Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards. 

McRobbie also presented Davis with an honorary doctorate during her visit. 

IU will continue celebrating its Bicentennial through June 6.