A banner year at IU and the beginning of IU's third century of excellence

Dear Friend of IU:

Just a couple of days remain in what has been an exceptionally exciting and productive semester at Indiana University. And we are only a month away from celebrating a truly momentous and unique milestone in the life our institution: the 200th anniversary of the university’s founding on Jan. 20, 1820, and the start of the university's third century.

While our Bicentennial Year celebration will continue until June 2020, the end of the final semester of the final year of IU's first 200 years is an appropriate time to reflect on recent achievements, each of which has resulted from an energetic and vigorous effort — involving countless members of the broader IU community — to ensure IU is ready to meet the challenges of its third century. Simply put, the scale of what has been accomplished at IU in a relatively short time is breathtaking, and our confidence in our future has never been greater. 

Children sledding on the IU Bloomington campus, most likely in the winter of 1901-02.  Photo courtesy of IU Archives

In the past few years alone — and with continuing strong support from the legislature and administration of the state of Indiana — we have seen record after record shattered.

Record levels of financial aid, historically low tuition increases and plummeting student debt have made IU one of the most affordable public research universities in the nation.

In addition, we have seen:

  • A record number of 21,500 new IU graduates in spring 2019, 70 percent of whom were Hoosier residents.
  • The largest freshman class in IU's history, including record classes at IU Bloomington and IUPUI.
  • A record number of minority students at IU — now, in fact, equal to the minority percentages of the state's population and representing nearly a doubling of minority students over the past decade.
  • Record levels of research funding from government and industry of nearly $700 million, the most of any university in the state, which is supporting research that is having an enormous positive impact in the communities we serve.
  • A record investment of $200 million aimed at improving the health and well-being of Indiana residents through IU's Grand Challenges initiatives to curb opioid addiction, address the impact of climate change and develop precision cures for cancers and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
  • The largest academic restructuring in IU's history, during which 10 new schools have been established in areas of vital national importance such as engineering and artificial intelligence, public health, architecture and design, and international studies.
  • A record period of construction and renovation, approaching 200 major new buildings across all campuses, with a total value of nearly $2.75 billion, to support IU's schools and enhance student life.
  • Record levels of international engagement, including the establishment of the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies and the opening of IU Global Gateways in Beijing, New Delhi, Berlin, Mexico City and Bangkok, and so now the sun never sets on IU.
  • The enormously successful For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign, which has now raised well in excess of $3 billion, and to which many of you have generously given. This includes funding for over 5,000 endowed scholarships and 200 endowed professorships.
  • The completion of the Master Plan for IU's central athletics campus, with a record investment of $250 million by some of IU's most generous donors for new or renovated facilities such as the magnificently updated Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

As you can see, we have a lot to celebrate and be proud of. And the days and weeks ahead will bring even more exciting activity.

At IU Bloomington's annual winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 21, we will congratulate more than 1,900 students on earning their IU degrees. We are honored that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a lifelong Hoosier and great friend of IU, will deliver this year's commencement address to our newest graduates. And we are very pleased to confer honorary degrees, the highest academic honor IU can bestow, on two distinguished IU alumni and outstanding public servants: Dan Coats, former U.S. director of national intelligence and former U.S. senator, and Kumble Subbaswamy, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and former dean of the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences.

One of the 65 bells of the Arthur R. Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon was lifted into place in October during the relocation and renovation of the carillon in the Arboretum at IU Bloomington. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

On Jan. 20, we will recognize the IU Bicentennial and Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a host of special activities and events, including a keynote lecture by acclaimed actress Viola Davis, which we recently moved from IU Auditorium to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to accommodate an overwhelming interest in this public event. That day will also feature activities on all of IU's campuses celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. We will also commemorate the IU Bicentennial with the dedication of the new history mural panels in IU Bloomington's Wright Quad as well as the newly commissioned "Lux et Veritas" paintings in Presidents Hall, the dedication of IU's new Big Red 200 supercomputer and the ceremonial first ringing of the bells in the newly renovated Arthur R. Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon.

Before I sign off on the fall semester and what has been another banner year at IU, I want to share with you a few more important recent developments, including some exciting news from the gridiron that has all of Hoosier Nation eager with anticipation!

Going bowling for the Bicentennial

With its dramatic double overtime victory over rival Purdue University, IU's football team brought the Old Oaken Bucket home again and finished its most successful regular season in 26 years with an 8-4 record. They also received a well-earned berth in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, where they will face the University of Tennessee. It will be IU's 12th bowl appearance, our third bowl in the past five seasons and our first bowl in the state of Florida.

This has been a very exciting season, and we are happy to see it continue Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, where the Hoosier Nation is sure to be out in full force.

As we prepare to go bowling in our Bicentennial Year, all of us are extremely proud of our players and the excellent job that coach Tom Allen and his hardworking staff have done in leading his team through a breakthrough season, building our football program into a winner and creating the foundation for what promises to be an extremely bright future.

Shining in and out of the classroom

Given that this is our Bicentennial Year, my wife, Laurie, and I are again, as we did a few years ago, attending one event for all 24 IU sports. This has given us an opportunity to support our student athletes and their coaches as they build on their recent successes, compete in our superb new state-of-the-art facilities and bring credit and honor to the university and themselves.

Members of the IU football team celebrated their double overtime victory in November against Purdue and reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket, a tradition that began in 1925 as part of an annual rivalry between the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers.  Photo courtesy of IU Athletics

As dedicated Hoosier fans can also tell you, we are seeing some very impressive athletics successes and achievements at the moment — in fact some of the best of recent times.

Last year, a school-record nine teams finished first or second in the Big Ten, and 14 programs were either ranked in the top 25 during the season or finished in the top 25 at the NCAA championships.

This fall, the IU men's soccer team repeated as both the Big Ten regular season and tournament champions — the 10th time in school history and the second consecutive season they achieved the championship "double." The Hoosiers also earned their 33rd-straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, which represents the longest active streak in the nation.

IU's women's basketball team continues to serve notice that it is a team to be reckoned with by recently defeating No. 5 South Carolina and rising to No. 12 in the nation in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, the highest national ranking in program history.

And a number of current and former IU swimmers, including former All-Americans Lilly King, Cody Miller and Zach Apple, earned medals at the U.S. Open, held this month in Atlanta.

Of course, IU's student athletes are first and foremost students, and we are extremely pleased that they continue to demonstrate the solid academic achievement that we expect of them. To this end, 83 of our student athletes who competed in fall sports were recently named to the Academic All-Big Ten team, having earned a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. This comes after a record number of 279 IU student athletes earned this recognition in the 2018-19 academic year.

So much of this recent success reflects the outstanding leadership of IU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Fred Glass, who announced his retirement on Monday after representing IU with great distinction for the last decade and earning a reputation as one of the best athletics directors in the Big Ten. Fred's legacy will be one of strong and competitive athletics programs and teams that play by the rules, a pervasive commitment to compliance and integrity, a commitment to excellent academic performance, record fundraising, and magnificent new or renovated facilities. We wish him the very best in the next phase of his career, already filled with so many notable achievements.

Preparing the next generation of global leaders

Earlier I mentioned IU's record levels of international engagement, which continues to be a vital component of the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan. We believe strongly that, of all that comprises a quality IU education, international literacy and experience rank at the very top.

To this end, IU continues to be a leader in overseas study. Last month we announced that IU Bloomington once again ranks sixth in the nation — out of about 1,200 universities — in terms of the number of students who study abroad. Today, about one-third of IU Bloomington students have studied abroad by the time they graduate. Additionally, several of IU's regional campuses have also experienced substantial increases in the number of their students who study abroad.

IU's Hamilton Lugar School has been central to our international engagement efforts. Founded in 2012 and named last year in honor of two of Indiana's most distinguished statesmen, former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton and the late former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, the school is providing an education at the highest level in all aspects of international affairs and international studies. In doing so, it is preparing students for careers in which they will address some of the world's most important economic, political, social, cultural and environmental challenges.

IU President McRobbie presented former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award in December. Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana University

In its first few years of operation, under the leadership of founding dean Lee Feinstein, the former U.S. ambassador to Poland, the school has been enormously successful. The number of majors in the school has increased by 83 percent in the past five years, and IU offers instruction each year in about 70 foreign languages, most of them in the school — by far the largest number of any university in the country.

Just over a year ago, we announced that a record number of 11 IU area studies centers and programs within the school were awarded grant funding for 18 separate programs under the U.S. Department of Education's prestigious Title VI program. These centers conduct research and scholarship on various regions of the world that are critical to our understanding of and engagement with the broader world. This was the best outcome for IU in the more than 60-year history of the Title VI program and the best of any university in the country.

And the school continues to develop its landmark Global Leadership Scholars Program, supported by a $25 million fundraising campaign, which provides four-year, full-tuition scholarships to deserving undergraduates and supports full master's degree fellowships, including tuition, fees and a living stipend. In the coming years, alumni of this program — as well as other graduates of the Hamilton Lugar School — will follow in the footsteps of the school's namesakes and other distinguished IU alumni, such as former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, to whom we recently presented IU's Distinguished Alumni Service Award. Indeed, as they prepare to become the next generation of diplomats, public servants, lawyers, entrepreneurs, teachers and nonprofit leaders, these students could not have any greater role models than Gates, Hamilton and Lugar, three outstanding public servants who devoted themselves to helping others and brought to their careers a sense of bipartisanship and duty to their fellow Americans. 

A final word, and happy holidays!

As we survey all of IU's recent achievements, it is clear that Indiana's flagship public university is well prepared to build on its successes in its next century.

It is also clear that members of the IU community are taking full advantage of the IU Bicentennial to generate exactly the type of momentum we need to further our reputation as one of the world's premier public research universities and continue to fulfill our mission to improving Hoosier communities across our state.

As we conclude another extraordinary year for IU, head into our winter break and look forward to our Jan. 20 celebration, Laurie and I want to take a moment to wish everyone a safe, happy and restful holiday season.

To all of our faculty and staff who work so hard throughout the year to make IU the outstanding university it has been for two centuries, you have our sincerest gratitude and respect for a job very well done.

And to our many alumni and friends all across the nation and all over the world, please know that your continued support of IU and our work is truly and deeply appreciated.

With warmest holiday greetings,

Michael A. McRobbie