Countdown to the Bicentennial: A record-setting summer

Research support, philanthropic giving and community partnerships fueling IU's positive impact throughout the state

Dear Friend of IU:

This is my first update for the new academic year, but the summer has hardly been quiet. As will be seen by a number of record-setting achievements and exciting announcements that I describe below, this has been one of the busiest and most productive summers at the university that I can remember, as I start my 12th year as IU president.

All of what we have seen over summer emphatically underscores IU's success in continuing its status as one of the leading public research universities in the world; contributing hugely to a prosperous and innovative Indiana; and meeting the top priorities of the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which is driving all that we do to prepare for a third century of excellence.

Over the next several days, our campuses across the state will open their doors to record numbers of new and returning students. They will return to what will be a particularly exciting and eventful academic year at IU, and one in which we are counting down the days to what will be a great historic event: IU’s 200th anniversary! From today there are only 317 days to go until it starts. For a preview of the myriad of exciting Bicentennial events that are planned, visit In fact, I encourage you to bookmark this link and visit it often, as more and more activities will be added to it as we count down to the Bicentennial.

A record-breaking year of investment in IU and Indiana

Just a few days ago I had the enormous pleasure of announcing at the historic first-ever meeting of the IU Board of Trustees in Evansville – another year of record research and philanthropic funding at IU. The university achieved a total of nearly $1 billion in private philanthropy and external research awards in the most recent fiscal year ending June 30.

These figures speak volumes about the quality of the outstanding research being conducted by our faculty, staff and students – research that expands knowledge, drives innovation, creates new industries and jobs, spurs economic growth and supports a high standard of living.

These figures also reflect the generosity of tens of thousands of IU alumni and friends whose continued support has contributed to the university's historic reputation for excellence over nearly two centuries. Collectively, this funding directly and indirectly also helps to support thousands of jobs in the state of Indiana.

IU: Indiana's research powerhouse

In fiscal year 2018, IU researchers received $604.4 million in external funding for research and other activities. This represents the highest total of external research funding obtained by any research university in the state during the last fiscal year and the second-highest annual total in IU history, falling just short of the previous record.

This figure includes an IU record of $204.7 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, the principal federal government source of support for health sciences research in the U.S. Overall, it included $314.8 million in federal grants and contracts, $44.1 million in awards from the National Science Foundation and nearly $75 million in sponsored funding from industry – figures that are all the more noteworthy in light of the increasingly competitive environment that has faced researchers across the country in recent years as federal budgets have tightened.

Graphic by Samantha Thompson, Indiana University

Our external research funding also includes a total of $203.1 million in non-governmental grants, which is yet another IU record.

All of these remarkable figures once again underscore the fact that IU truly is the state’s research powerhouse.

I want to congratulate and thank our outstanding faculty and staff for all they have done to achieve such a superb result. The enormous success they have had in competing for external research funding in such a difficult funding environment is a testament to the excellence of their work. Their research and scholarship have resulted in the generation of innovative new ideas, new creative works and discoveries that cure disease, protect our environment, help secure our nation, grow the economy and advance art and culture in our communities.

The impact of private philanthropy

I was also delighted to be able to announce in Evansville that in the last fiscal year, IU received a record $550.1 million in total private individual and institutional philanthropy given by the alumni and friends of IU – the highest annual total in the history of the university! This figure represents a 19 percent increase in philanthropic support over the previous year, and it also marks the fifth consecutive year that IU has set a record for the amount of private individual and institutional philanthropy received.

This historic giving puts us well ahead of schedule in our universitywide Bicentennial Campaign, led by the IU Foundation, which has the ambitious goal of raising $3 billion to support four broad university priorities that reflect the central goals of our Bicentennial Strategic Plan.

I also announced that we have now crossed the $2.5 billion mark, nearly twice as much as any previous campaign at IU has raised, with the support of nearly 300,000 donors. Their gifts play a vital part in the excellence in education and research at IU. They are helping to support breakthroughs in research and fund endowed chairs and professorships that allow us to recruit and retain some of the brightest faculty in the world. They are also helping to create a rich educational experience for IU students across the state, and they are fundamental to our efforts to keep an IU education affordable and within reach of deserving students.

The total of $550.1 million includes more than $347 million in philanthropic gifts from nearly 112,000 donors. It also includes the record total of $203.1 million in non-governmental grants mentioned before. Because these non-governmental grants fund IU research projects, the total of non-governmental grants received is actually reflected in both the figure for external grant funding and private philanthropy. Accounting for this means that IU's total private philanthropy and external grant funding in fiscal year 2018 is a new record – totaling a remarkable $951.4 million, or nearly $1 billion.

I want to again thank and congratulate all those who helped make possible the record achievements in external research funding and private philanthropy, including our outstanding research faculty, research administration staff, the many students – at both the graduate and undergraduate levels – who are engaged in research on IU's campuses and, of course, the university’s generous donors.

A new era of medical education in Evansville

In a major celebration late last week, IU joined with the University of Evansville and the University of Southern Indiana in formally dedicating a new and highly anticipated shared hub for health sciences education in Evansville. We expect the hub will have an enormous impact on the city, the southwestern Indiana region and the state of Indiana for many years to come.

This was an event of such importance in the life of IU that the IU Board of Trustees held its first-ever meeting in Evansville so that all of the board's members could be on hand to help celebrate this important new facility.

Administrators from Indiana University, the University of Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville, and leaders from the city of Evansville gather around William Stone as he prepares to cut the ribbon to officially open the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences.  Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Despite the fact that Evansville is the state’s third largest city, IU did not previously have a major presence in Evansville or southwestern Indiana. The Stone Family Center for Health Sciences, anchored by the IU School of Medicine in Evansville – one of nine regional medical education centers that make up the nation’s largest medical school – is a major step in changing that.

This splendid new facility allows us to expand health sciences research and education in Evansville. It will also help to address the acute shortage of primary-care physicians and other health care providers in southwestern Indiana, as medical students are more likely to locate their practices in the city where they trained.

Moreover, the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences will bring together the expertise of the IU School of Medicine, the IU School of Dentistry, the nursing and occupational therapy programs of the University of Southern Indiana, and the University of Evansville's physician assistant program and its doctoral program in physical therapy. In doing so, it will have a transformative effect – not only on how we educate those who provide health care, but also on the future of health care in Evansville and southwestern Indiana.

It is no exaggeration to say that the building's arrival marks the beginning of a new era of medical education for the city and surrounding region.

We owe enormous thanks to the many people who helped us reach this milestone. First among them, of course, are Evansville natives William and Mary Stone, who, through their extraordinarily generous gift of $15 million, are helping to create a healthier, more vibrant community.

We are grateful for the support that the Indiana General Assembly has given to IU over many years, including their appropriation for the Stone facility. We also very much appreciate the confidence the Evansville community put in this project, as expressed through financial incentives that helped make the center possible. It is our sincere hope and expectation that the center will play an important role in the continued economic development of Evansville's downtown. And we commend Dr. Steven Becker, associate dean and director of the IU School of Medicine-Evansville, for his vision and leadership, which was vital to the expansion of IU’s program and the creation of this center.

Finally, we want to express our thanks and appreciation to Patrick A. Shoulders, the longest-serving member of the IU Board of Trustees, who has served the university with great distinction as the national volunteer chair of the IU Alumni Association and in many other capacities. Those who know him know there is no stronger advocate for the city of Evansville, Vanderburgh County and IU than Pat, who was one of the leading advocates for the creation of the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences. Pat and his wife, Lisa, also generously gave the lead gift that made possible the beautiful fountains – known as "Healing Arts" – which reside outside the new health center.

Introducing IU Fort Wayne

Just like with Evansville, there is every reason to be optimistic about the future of IU's engagement in the city of Fort Wayne, the second largest city in the state, and in northeast Indiana, a critically important region and a community with many passionate IU alumni and friends. 

Of course, IU has been a fixture in the Fort Wayne community for more than five decades. But it was just a year ago that the IU Board of Trustees and the Purdue University Board of Trustees, following an extensive five-year analysis, approved agreements to realign the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne campus in an effort to better provide for educational interests and economic growth needs in northeastern Indiana. This realignment called for two separate campuses – Indiana University Fort Wayne and Purdue University Fort Wayne – that would reaffirm IU's and Purdue's commitment to the Fort Wayne community and allow each university to fully focus on its strengths and areas of expertise.

Exterior view of the IU School of Medicine building at IU Fort Wayne. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

On July 1, IU Fort Wayne formally joined IU with an emphasis on health science education and under the administrative direction of the IUPUI campus. The new regional education center, which is based in Neff Hall, includes programs in dentistry, medical imaging and medicine, nursing and social work, in addition to general education and online courses. The center also boasts a dental laboratory technology program that is the only one in Indiana and one of only 15 accredited programs in the country.

The center currently employs 44 full-time undergraduate faculty and 25 staff members, in addition to 16 full-time graduate faculty and several staff employed by the schools of social work and medicine. And this does not count the hundreds of part-time and volunteer didactic and clinical faculty and specialists who are preparing to offer the best educational opportunities possible to students.

This fall, the brand-new center will welcome 300 incoming, first-year students to its health sciences programs under the IU banner, and they will join another 150 returning sophomores, also known as "movers," in making up the first official IU Fort Wayne undergraduate class.

Bringing 300 new students to a first-year center is truly a remarkable accomplishment, and credit goes to the team of hardworking enrollment officers and other officials from across IU’s campuses who have spearheaded this transition. Together, they have embraced the enormous task of building a strong academic and administrative infrastructure that will be crucial to the center’s success. And even though classes will not begin for a few days, they are already focused on next year as they look to build out the key processes, including scholarships, financial aid, registration, enrollment, grading and transcript processing, that will ensure positive student experiences and successful student outcomes.

A final word

All of the major accomplishments and new initiatives I have described are testimony to the dedication and generosity of thousands of accomplished IU alumni and friends, our students and our outstanding faculty and staff, whose successes are a vital part of IU’s great traditions of excellence in education, research and engagement in the life of our state. And I would add another great resource: the people of Indiana with whom we have worked in close partnership for almost 200 years.

All were also made possible because, as proud supporters of and advocates for IU, we share a common vision for the future of our state and its communities.

It is a vision of a first-rate, affordable and accessible education for Hoosier students who, in turn, will employ what they have learned in the classroom to make positive contributions in their communities after they graduate. It is a vision of enhanced educational and cultural opportunities, and a wider range of career opportunities. And it is a vision of healthier and happier Hoosiers, who have access to the best health care, medical education and research.

As we prepare to embark on a new academic year and countdown to the Bicentennial, let us celebrate and further build upon all of these accomplishments to keep IU on the course of greatness as it approaches its third century and steadfastly pursue our vision of improving the world for future generations.

As always, thank you for your continued support and all that you do for IU.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie