Countdown to the Bicentennial: Celebrating the 'complete university' and 200 years of commitment to the Hoosier state

Dear Friend of Indiana University, 

As I write to you today, we are just two days away from IU's official birthdate (Jan. 20) and what will be the university's last birthday celebration before it turns a remarkable 200 years old next year.

Though IU will officially reach this historic occasion on Jan. 20, 2020, planning for our Bicentennial celebration has been well underway for a number of years under the leadership of Bicentennial Director Dr. Kelly Kish and with the support of hundreds of faculty, students, staff, alumni and other friends of IU. These celebrations will commence just 164 days from now on July 1 and reach their peak during the 2019-20 academic year, which will be bookended by an official opening festival in the fall and a Bicentennial Gala celebration in June 2020. In between will be numerous exciting events that will celebrate, chronicle and explore IU's history, all of which you can learn more about on the Indiana University Bicentennial website at 200.iu.edu.

Many of you are aware that we have already launched a number of major Bicentennial projects, each of which demonstrates how we are using this great historic event to reflect on IU's first 200 years, recognize the university's extraordinary contributions to the betterment of the Hoosier state, our nation and our world, and envision all that the university will become in its third century.

Last month saw an array of major announcements from our Office of the Bicentennial. These included the naming of 25 Bicentennial Professors from all of IU's campuses and the IU School of Medicine who will share their research and other professional activities with Hoosiers in public presentations across all of Indiana's 92 counties; the commissioning of two mural projects at IU Bloomington and the installation of the first regional campus mural project at IU Kokomo; and the development of a free digital interactive learning tool, CitizIN, that will educate Hoosiers on our state's history, government, culture and more.

Caleb Weintraub will create a new five-panel mural that will be installed in Wright Quad on the IU Bloomington campus as part of the Bicentennial Heritage Preservation and Campus Beautification project. Photo courtesy of the IU Office of the Bicentennial

These projects are in addition to several signature efforts already well in the works, including the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project, which continues to gather stories about IU's heritage — now numbering more than 1,000 — from alumni and current and former faculty and staff, and the IU Bicentennial Medal, a prestigious honor that we will soon award to honor distinguished and distinctive service in support of IU's mission as the state's flagship public university.

Little more than 100 years after IU's founding in 1820, in the years following World War I, IU's 10th president, William Lowe Bryan, reflected on all that had been accomplished at IU in its first century and described a vision for the next 100 years. He predicted that "A hundred years from now there will be here an Indiana (University) which approaches far more nearly than we can do the complete university; but if so, the men (and women) of that day will look back with respect upon (those) who stood on this ground a hundred years ago ..."

Nearly 100 years later, all of us at IU can be justly proud of our efforts toward fulfilling Bryan's vision of a complete university, and we look back with the deepest respect at the accomplishments of all who stood with him that day. It was a vision built on the promise made nearly two centuries ago to expand and enrich the civic, cultural, economic and social life of our state and all of its residents, which has today been even more fully realized.

Today, we need look no further than our 10 new schools (established this decade) and innovative programs, such as our newly designed degree programs in architecture and intelligent systems engineering and the enormously successful IU Online program, to see how we are constantly working to more effectively meet the evolving needs of our students as well as our state's leading employers.

We continue to witness enormous positive change, growth and progress at our IUPUI campus, which is part way through its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration as it expands its research and educational enterprise, fostering a truly welcoming environment for all of its members and further dedicating itself to community engagement.

IU's regional campuses are energetically working together to bring an IU education to nearly every part of the state, with all of the impacts and benefits this brings to the communities, regions and counties where the campuses are located.

And through all of our recent and unprecedented academic transformations, we continue to preserve and strengthen those areas of national and international renown that form the bedrock of our world-class university.

These include our great traditions in the arts and humanities, based on the eminence and reputation of our superb scholars. From language and literature to the fine and performing arts, they have established IU's programs as among the finest in the world. They have also contributed immeasurably to providing a liberal education, in the very truest sense, to generations of IU students.

William Lowe Bryan, IU's 10th president, shared a vision of a "complete university" when he presided over the celebration of the university's first 100 years. Photo courtesy of IU Archives

These also include IU's athletics programs, which continue to provide a sense of excitement and pride for the extended university community, and which bind alumni and friends to IU wherever they may be in the world. New state-of-the-art programs and facilities reflect IU's determination to add to its rich legacy of success and ensure that our student-athletes achieve their academic, athletic and personal development goals.

Indeed, we have much to celebrate and be proud of — and even more to look forward to — as we continue to work together to enhance IU's longstanding traditions of excellence in education, research and service.

In my first President's Update of the final year of IU's second century — and as we begin what promises to be an eventful and productive spring semester — I would like to expand some more on the aforementioned exciting progress taking place at IU. I would also like to briefly address several other important state and national developments impacting the university.

Addressing the partial government shutdown

As you know, IU faculty, staff and students returned to their campuses for the start of the spring semester last week with the nation in the midst of a partial government shutdown. As IU's Office of the Vice President for Research noted in a recent email to the university community, this shutdown is affecting many federal research agencies' ability to award new grants or contracts.

Please be assured that IU continues to closely monitor the situation for any potential impacts on the university's important work. We will also provide information to faculty, staff and students as it becomes available and as we await responsible action from Congress and the administration to reopen and fund our government as soon as possible.

Endorsing the call for hate crimes legislation

In his State of the State Address on Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb called on the state to adopt new hate crimes legislation, which he has consistently said is long overdue. As many of you know, Indiana is one of a very small list of states without strong hate crimes laws.

As we outlined in a subsequent statement, IU — in keeping with its core values of diversity of community and respect for the dignity of others — applauds and fully supports the governor's call. We believe such legislation is critical to our efforts to continue attracting and retaining the best scholars and researchers from around the country and world and to further our state's economic competitiveness and quality of life.

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday marks the nation's annual celebration of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whom IU will honor through an extensive array of programming on our campuses across the state. This tradition also includes IU students leading the MLK Day of Service, an effort to give back to the communities surrounding IU's campuses and demonstrate the university's commitment to the values of diversity, inclusion and togetherness that Dr. King embodied and championed.

I encourage all members of the IU community, wherever you are living, to join in celebrating the life and legacy of this great American who continues to inspire and impact all of IU's efforts to build an educational environment in which all feel respected and welcomed. Visit IU's 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration website for a full list of activities.

Celebrating IUPUI at 50: A dynamic and thriving urban research campus

Fifty years ago, IU and Purdue University merged their various schools, educational programs and offerings in Indianapolis to establish IUPUI. In the decades that have followed, IUPUI has rapidly developed into a thriving urban research campus with a tremendous history of civic engagement, whose members have made major contributions to issues concerning the city of Indianapolis and our state.

IUPUI will celebrate its 50-year anniversary with a Birthday Bash this month.  Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

The campus's longstanding strengths in the academic health sciences have enabled IU to play an essential role in providing health-related services to the people of Indiana and the nation, educating the overwhelming majority of health sciences professionals in Indiana and conducting research that leads to new treatments and cures. The campus is also home to outstanding professional schools in business and law, and to first-rate graduate and undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences.

We see additional evidence of the growth and the impact of the campus in facilities like the Science and Engineering Lab Building; University Hall, which is home to the world's first school of philanthropy: the splendid Campus Center; and the newly renovated IU Natatorium, still one of the most iconic amateur athletic venues in the U.S. We also see such evidence in new residence halls that contribute immeasurably to student success, including North Hall and University Tower.

Furthermore, IUPUI students contribute tens of thousands of hours of volunteer service to the community each year. Indeed, the campus's unwavering commitment to community, service-learning and civic engagement is one of the most powerful and visible ways IUPUI helps to transform the community it serves.

In its first half century, IUPUI has accomplished much more than its founders could have ever imagined. And under the strong leadership of Chancellor Nasser Paydar, its story continues to unfold as it adapts to an ever-changing educational landscape, works to ensure the best of outcomes for its students, and pursues ideas and innovations that lead to a better quality of life for the people of Indiana and beyond.

I encourage everyone to get involved with the golden anniversary of IUPUI and celebrate the success of this vibrant campus. To this end, many of us greatly look forward to the campus's 50th Anniversary Birthday Bash on Thursday, Jan. 24 — IUPUI's official 50th birthday — at the Campus Center. The event is open to all faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends.

Delivering an authentically IU experience online

Through its comprehensive and enormously successful online initiative, IU Online, the university continues its pioneering approach to meeting the needs of generations of learners and helping more Hoosiers earn degrees that will open pathways to new careers, promotions and economic opportunity.

Established in 2012, IU Online provides an authentically IU experience with courses and degrees that are taught by IU faculty and are a true extension of the IU curriculum.

Just this week, IU Online was once again highly ranked by U.S. News and World Report — with the Kelley Direct Online MBA program and its Master of Science online program both rating No. 1 in the nation — offering further evidence that IU is the state's online education powerhouse for four-year and graduate online education.

Building a new generation of architects

Over the past few years, IU has been implementing plans to address the considerable need for professional architects and designers both here in Indiana and nationwide. In Indiana alone, the need for architects is projected to grow by 15 percent over the next decade.

IU's new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program, which is based in the School of Art, Architecture + Design at IU Bloomington, is firmly rooted in the successful longstanding partnership between IU and the city of Columbus, an internationally recognized center of architectural masterpieces. It is also a vital part of the university's broader efforts to build a culture of "building and making" at the university to develop innovations and inventions that contribute to local, state and national economic development.

In the fall, the program welcomed its first cohort of students, who will benefit from instruction that blends architecture with principles of art and design and provides robust training in coalition building and community partnership. Indeed, the program was developed in collaboration with the Columbus community, including the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives and the CivicLab, a program of the Community Education Coalition.

On Jan. 31, we will formally dedicate the program's spectacular new home — the historic Republic Building, the former home of the Republic newspaper and one of seven Columbus buildings to have been named a National Historic Landmark.

All of us at IU are delighted that in this great and elegant building that exemplifies excellence in design, we have established a superb laboratory for architecture education, where students will acquire the knowledge and skills needed to become civic-minded, innovative and imaginative architects and designers.

Expanding upon IU's athletics traditions

Wednesday was a historic day for athletics at IU. With the dedication of Wilkinson Hall, we completed the master plan for IU's central athletics campus in the area bounded by 17th and Dunn streets and the Bypass and symbolically and physically connected to IU Bloomington's main academic campus by Woodlawn Avenue. This plan forms part of the larger master plan for IU Bloomington, which IU trustees approved in 2010. The completion of the athletics campus represents an extraordinary investment by some of IU's most generous donors of around a quarter of a billion dollars over the past decade.

IU alumnus Jay Wilkinson cuts a ribbon with his family during a ceremony at Wilkinson Hall, which was dedicated this month. The new state-of-the-art home for IU's volleyball and wrestling programs is named in recognition of the Wilkinsons' $10 million contribution to the construction of the new facility.  Photo courtesy of IU Athletics

Wilkinson Hall is a state-of-the-art home for IU's wrestling and volleyball programs, which had been competing in the aging, far-flung and less-than-adequate University Gym. It provides much easier access to IU competitions for students and the general public, and it provides IU wrestlers and volleyball players with much improved access to all the amenities of the athletics program, including the innovative personal development programs of the Excellence Academy, whose new home we dedicated in the renovated south end zone of Memorial Stadium in the fall.

Indeed, student-athletes in both the wrestling and volleyball programs have already achieved great success on the mat, on the court and in the classroom. Both programs have recently secured wins over nationally ranked opponents, and both are also recruiting exceptionally well — due, in part, to this wonderful new arena.

Extending IU's glorious traditions in the humanities

At a time when some voices have questioned the value of the arts and humanities — or sought to perpetuate a myth that students in these areas will somehow be ill-positioned to secure rewarding and fulfilling careers — we continue to believe strongly that the best employees and most responsible global citizens require an education that includes the arts and humanities.

This commitment to providing an education that is wide-ranging and selectively deep — in logic and reason, in the past and the present, and in subjects central to understanding the human experience — has positioned us as one of the nation's leading destinations for such an education.

Indeed, IU Bloomington has received the fourth-highest total of awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities — nearly $7 million — over the past decade, ranking the university behind only the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard University. Additionally, four IU faculty members received a total of nearly a quarter million dollars in grants announced last month by the NEH, one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the U.S.

To return to where I began this update letter, the arts and humanities will also be vital components to IU's bicentennial celebration. To this end, we have established, among other projects, a public art restoration fund to be supported in part by the estate of former President Bryan. The Bryan Public Art Restoration Fund will facilitate the needed maintenance and restoration of public art on all of our campuses and allow public art to retain its inspirational place among our beautiful outdoor spaces.

Winter well wishes

Of course, all of the progress I have just described would not be possible without the support of our outstanding faculty and staff, our smart, inspiring and highly engaged students, and our extremely passionate alumni and friends, who are making a difference in Hoosier communities and all over the world.

It is almost mindboggling to consider all of the extraordinary contributions IU has made, collectively, over the university's nearly 200-year history. I look forward to chronicling and celebrating with you all of our successes — and imagining the continued impact we will have in our third century — in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you, as always, for all that you do for IU. Best wishes for a successful start to 2019, and a very happy 199th birthday to our beloved and great institution.

Yours sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie