Building a better and more prosperous Indiana, nation and world

Dear Friend of Indiana University:

As Indiana’s flagship and namesake public institution of higher education, Indiana University embraces its vital responsibility to Hoosiers by:

  • Providing an excellent and affordable education to students in every corner of the state.
  • Producing more and better graduates in areas of key importance to our state and our nation.
  • Ensuring that the impact of our research, expertise and resources extends far beyond our campus boundaries and actively helps contribute to a high quality of life in Indiana and to state and national prosperity.

With the excitement of another resoundingly successful IU Day celebration behind us and the beginning of the IU Bicentennial celebration now just 77 days away, we can all feel great pride in how much progress we have made together toward advancing these missions in recent years.

Likewise, with our campuses across the state getting ready for the much-anticipated spring commencement ceremonies in a few weeks, we can look forward again to celebrating the achievements of IU's newest graduating class, which will once again be the largest group of graduates to be produced by any one institution in Indiana and another IU record. The sheer size of IU’s graduating class of over 20,000 graduates continues to be the greatest reminder of how IU is the state’s educational powerhouse and of the major role the university continues to play in creating and advancing the educational, intellectual, economic, social and cultural fabric of the Hoosier state.

During a visit to thank IU Foundation staff members for their work, IU President Michael A. McRobbie and IU Board of Trustees member MaryEllen Bishop watch real-time social media engagement on IU Day. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

As we approach the conclusion of a most eventful and productive spring semester, I want to highlight a number of recent major accomplishments that further demonstrate the remarkable impact IU is having here at home, nationally and around the world. All of these have been announced or accomplished in little more than a month since I Iast wrote to you. Many across the university deserve great credit for their important contributions to them. Each of them underscores our university’s steadfast commitment to orienting and motivating generations of Hoosier leaders and decision-makers; to ensuring that meaningful community and cultural engagement will always be a central part of our mission; and to continuing to generate the type of extraordinary support that enables the best educational and experiential learning opportunities for all of our students.

New name, same No. 1 ranking

Nearly a half-century ago, in March 1971, IU trustees endorsed a faculty committee’s proposal to establish a new school of public and environmental affairs. As the first to combine public and environmental affairs, the proposed new school was to be unlike any other in the nation.

A driving force behind the proposal was a growing public desire for universities to more effectively address the biggest public policy and environmental challenges facing our communities and to contribute to the improvement of the nation’s well-being.

Today, that school — which has been named the No. 1 public affairs graduate program by U.S. News and World Report for three consecutive years — has continued to produce groundbreaking interdisciplinary research that has solved some of our society's most pressing concerns. And it continues to develop outstanding graduates, many of whom remain in Indiana after earning their degrees and bring public policy and fiscal expertise to bear for the benefit of all Hoosiers.

Last month began a new era for a school that has become synonymous with excellence at IU and a national model for how universities can deliver exceptional academic quality, while also engaging in important research that responds to the needs of our communities. In March, the school received an extremely generous landmark $30 million gift from IU alumnus and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill. His gift will have a transformative impact at what will now be known, in his honor, as the Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, ensuring the school continues to develop future generations of civic-minded leaders and deliver to them the knowledge, skills and experience they need to build a better world. And this came on top of an earlier $3 million gift that helped construct the school’s new face to the world, the Paul H. O'Neill Graduate Center.

Supporting an IU and Indiana treasure

Among the most luminous of IU Bloomington’s many treasures is our internationally renowned Lilly Library. It is consistently regarded as one of our nation’s top libraries for rare and precious books and manuscripts of the greatest importance. Established in 1960 to house the extensive private library of the late Josiah K. Lilly Jr., the stately limestone building in the heart of IU Bloomington’s Fine Arts Plaza now contains more than 450,000 rare books, 8.5 million manuscripts and 150,000 sheets of music.

Former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, left, and former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar look at items on display at the Lilly Library during the opening of the library's exhibit of Lugar's senatorial papers.  Photo by Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University

In the years since its establishment, the Lilly Library has never ceased to reflect the vision of J.K. Lilly Jr., who imagined a place where generations of Hoosiers and people from all over the U.S. and the world — from children to lifelong learners and scholars — could use and appreciate the library's magnificent, one-of-a-kind materials.

As it prepares to begin its seventh decade of existence, the Lilly Library has been challenged in many ways by its own success. The size of its collections continues to expand dramatically, while increasing numbers of students and scholars seek to access its literary and cultural treasures, which require special handling and can only be accessed in secure on-site areas. Additionally, more and more IU faculty members are incorporating these special items into their teaching, research and creative activities.

This is why we were delighted to begin this month by announcing that Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded IU a nearly $11 million grant to support the complete internal renovation of the library, which has not had any interior work done since its completion nearly 60 years ago. This wonderful gift will enable the library to more effectively preserve and protect the matchless collections that have been entrusted to us. It will ensure that we can provide wider access to the library’s rare books, manuscripts and other historically important objects. And it will allow for more special events that honor the culture and history of our state and nation, such as the library's splendid new exhibition of the senatorial papers of former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, who is now a distinguished scholar and professor of practice in IU's Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

Furthering a culture of 'building and making' across our state

Among IU's newest schools, our School of Art, Architecture + Design provides a state-of-the-art education in art, architecture and innovative design to students seeking careers in these areas and in businesses and industries where design is fundamental to their success.

In pursuing this mission, the school is also contributing to a vibrant culture of "building and making" at IU and across the state. Such a culture is an essential part of maximizing the university’s potential for harnessing the creative energy of its students, faculty and staff and developing its inventions and innovations for the economic and cultural benefit of all Hoosiers.

This has been a momentous year for the school, which began offering a master’s degree in architecture last fall with a primary focus in Columbus, Indiana, one of our country’s most renowned centers for modern architecture. The new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program is based in the former Republic Newspaper building in Columbus, a nationally recognized historic landmark.

And just a few days ago, as part of our IU Day celebration, we were delighted to announce an extremely generous milestone gift of $20 million to the school from Indianapolis-based philanthropists and IU alumni Sidney and Lois Eskenazi. We were also very pleased to announce that in recognition of the couple's generosity and longstanding commitment to IU and to the arts here, the school has been renamed the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design.

Peg Faimon, founding dean of the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, and students thank Sidney and Lois Eskenazi for their generous gift to the school. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

The Eskenazis' generous gift — the largest in the school's history — will support student scholarships, faculty development and various academic programs, as well as help provide additional facilities.

As part of the gift, a special endowment will be established to fund a new Lois Eskenazi Scholarship for incoming first-year students who are interested in painting, a field in which Lois Eskenazi is particularly accomplished. The gift will also support a new "Fund for Excellence" that will be used for scholarships, fellowships, visiting artists and scholars, research funding, equipment, facilities and other special projects.

We look forward to sharing further exciting details concerning this gift, which will touch the lives of countless students, faculty and staff and have a transformative impact on the mission of the new school. 

Enhancing the beauty and character of our campuses

Central to our preparations for IU's Bicentennial are a number of long-planned efforts to honor and expand IU's history and cherished traditions. We have also sought to amplify the beauty and character of our campus environments to foster excellence in all that we do and attract the best and most deserving students from Indiana and around the nation and world.

This beauty and character stem from many features: our architecture, manicured landscapes, strategic planning to maintain standards of building quality and public art that enriches our campuses, reminds us of our shared history and inspires reflection.

A few days ago, we held a groundbreaking for the upgrade and relocation of the Metz Carillon on the Bloomington campus. The remote location of the original carillon and its lack of comfortable audience seating meant that it was rarely used for performances. The former carillon tower, which was built as part of the observance of IU’s 150th anniversary, also had badly deteriorated over 50 years due to weather and other factors.

By moving it to the center of campus, adjoining the Jesse and Beulah Cox Arboretum, large audiences will once again be able to enjoy regular concerts and recitals by faculty and students from IU's renowned Jacobs School of Music on this magnificent instrument. The carillon's bells will be installed into a beautiful new tower, designed by award-winning New York City architect Susie Rodriguez and Indianapolis architect Jonathan Hess and made possible by the Metz Foundation and associates of the IU Foundation's Well House Society. The society is also making possible the addition of four new bells to the carillon, which will make it one of fewer than 30 grand carillons in the world and one of only a handful in the U.S. This will enable it to play the full repertoire of thousands of compositions that comprise the canon of published carillon music.

The Metz Carillon will be a beautiful new campus landmark, a testament to the transformative power of philanthropy and a reflection of the great strength of the relationships that IU has fostered over many years. We look forward to this splendid new plaza holding special meaning for countless IU students, faculty, staff and visitors for generations to come.

Strengthening Indiana's global mission and supporting opportunities for IU students

As Indiana — which is home to more than 950 international companies employing over 190,000 Hoosiers — continues positioning itself to attract greater global investment, IU has embraced a leadership role in furthering the global mission and worldwide visibility of the Hoosier state.

To this end, we continue to pursue productive international partnerships and renew connections with our legions of alumni around the world. These have led to valuable opportunities for our students to learn to work productively with people from different cultures and traditions, acquire skills and experiences that today’s leading employers increasingly demand, and become active and engaged global citizens.

Members of the IU men's soccer team talk with IU President McRobbie during a recent trip to Mexico.  Photo provided by IU Athletics

In recent weeks, IU has honored 70 years of its historic partnership with Thailand, one of the longest official relationships the university has with an international partner. IU's connections with Thailand — which are rooted in friendships forged by our legendary 11th president and dedicated internationalist Herman B Wells — truly are among its strongest anywhere in the world, and they have led to an extensive array of teaching, scholarly, research and service opportunities for hundreds of students, faculty and staff.

With the opening last month of the new IU ASEAN Gateway office, which joins sister IU facilities in Beijing, Berlin, New Delhi and Mexico City, and the recent establishment of the Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies Program in IU's Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, IU is developing into an important center for the study of, and engagement with, one of the most economically and geopolitically important parts of the world.

IU also recently reunited with its ever-expanding international family in Taiwan for the official registration of the Taiwan Chapter of the IU Alumni Association with the Taiwanese government. Today there are nearly 2,300 IU alumni affiliated with Taiwan, and many of them have gone on to become leaders in education, business, arts and culture, and government in their home country and around the world.

This group of great global ambassadors for IU and Indiana now includes one of Taiwan's preeminent and beloved contemporary writers Chi Pang-yuan. At age 96, she is renowned for introducing Taiwanese literature throughout the western world and inspiring generations of students and readers. It was a tremendous privilege to present Professor Chi with an honorary IU Doctor of Letters degree — the highest academic recognition the university can give — in honor of her extraordinary contributions to world literature.

Finally, in March, members of IU's eight-time national champion men’s soccer team traveled to Mexico for a spring break trip that included two matches — one at the historic Olympic Stadium on the campus of IU's longtime partner, the National Autonomous University of Mexico. They also took part in a number of educational and cultural experiences, all of which were organized by the IU Mexico Gateway office, which we formally opened last spring on the UNAM campus.

The team's trip helped to further strengthen IU's productive partnership and friendship with Mexico —our state’s second-largest trading partner, importing more than $5 billion in Hoosier-manufactured goods and products — and with UNAM, the largest university in Latin America. We were also pleased that a small group of students from the Sports Media program at IU's Media School were able to join the team in Mexico City and report on all of the team’s activities, including its games (both IU victories!). All of this took place while, back home in Indiana, we continued to celebrate our Mexico Remixed Global Arts and Humanities Festival, which I described in my last update letter.

As this beautiful photo essay showcases, the trip provided an extraordinary opportunity for our soccer players and Media School students, who served as great representatives for IU. It was also an excellent example of the meaningful academic and cultural exchanges that our expanding global gateway network will continue to generate. 

A final word

For nearly 200 years, IU and the state of Indiana have been united in a powerful partnership in which the residents of the state have entrusted us with land, with resources and with the education of their children.

We have returned that trust by building a community of scholars and teachers who contribute in transformative and innovative ways to the prosperity and progress of our state, our nation and the world.

The developments I have just described reflect how strongly committed we are — as we prepare to embark upon a third century of excellence — to building on our worldwide reputation for excellence and bringing the university’s formidable resources to bear on the greatest challenges facing the communities we serve.

Of course, none of these accomplishments would be possible without the work of IU's outstanding faculty members, the leadership of dedicated administrators and staff, and the efforts of the hundreds of thousands of alumni and friends around the globe who support IU missions to improve the world for future generations.

I look forward to continuing to work with you, side by side, as we advance our great university and our great state.

With thanks as always,

Michael A. McRobbie
Indiana University