An extraordinary year of excellence

Dear Friend of Indiana University:

The beginning of Indiana University's Bicentennial year is now only 13 days away, and the excitement and anticipation are rising. In the coming academic year, we will chronicle and celebrate two centuries of IU's remarkable development into one of the world's great public research universities, while at the same time begin to map a vision of how the university will continue to evolve in its third century.

Of course, vital to IU's growth and success in its first 200 years have been the generous and selfless philanthropic spirit and the volunteer leadership of its alumni and friends. Thank you for all that you are doing for Indiana University.

The enormous success so far of IU's For All Bicentennial Campaign is a testament to this spirit and leadership. The campaign originally had the ambitious goal of raising $2.5 billion by the end of June 2020 in support of the university's fundamental missions of education, research and community engagement. And then, in fall 2017, we further raised the goal of the campaign to $3 billion because it was so far ahead of schedule.

So, I am truly delighted to be able to report to you that the Bicentennial Campaign continues to be well ahead of schedule and has now passed its $3 billion goal -- with nearly 13 months still to go!

This incredible achievement has been made possible by the enormous generosity of over 300,000 alumni, friends and organizations, to whom we are all immensely grateful. So far, this generosity has translated into nearly 4,700 new endowed scholarships and fellowships that mean that students from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not otherwise have been able to afford to pursue a degree now have the opportunity to come to IU. And it has translated into nearly 200 endowed chairs and professorships that enable us to recruit and retain some of the very best faculty in the world. These are quite extraordinary figures, as they represent increases of about 35 percent and 40 percent, respectively, over the total number endowed over roughly the previous 190 years of the university's existence!

IU President Michael A. McRobbie, First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie and members of the IU Student Association with renowned actress Glenn Close in 2017 during an event when an increase to the IU Bicentennial Campaign fundraising goal was announced. Photo by Ann Schertz

More generally, this level of support has sent a loud and resounding signal to the world of how strongly committed IU alumni, friends and supporters are to the university's future success -- as the Bicentennial Campaign will be one of only a very few campaigns at public universities to achieve success on this scale, among them being at Berkeley, UCLA and the University of Michigan.

But as I noted, we are still over a year from the completion of the campaign. And in just a few days, our Bicentennial Year will begin to be celebrated around the state, country and world. So this is not a time to rest on our laurels. We should instead take the fullest advantage of this truly unique year to build even greater support for the university's fundamental missions. There are still talented students in need. There are still great educational programs to support. There are still life-changing research breakthroughs to be made. Indeed, we believe the dedication and commitment of the IU community to these missions will reach such heights of enthusiasm during our 200-year anniversary that the campaign will far exceed its original goal. We wish, in short, to make the Bicentennial Campaign one of the most successful campaigns ever seen at a public university in this country, with an impact at IU that will endure through the next century.

An extraordinary year of excellence

This remarkable milestone for the Bicentennial Campaign arrives in the closing days of what has been another extraordinary academic year at IU and one of the most eventful and productive years at the university that I can remember in my 12 years as IU president.

In the paragraphs that follow, I will comment on a few more noteworthy developments -- which span the areas of athletics, affordability and accessibility, research and information technology -- as we close the book on a momentous 2018-19 at IU. 

A record-setting season of success

No matter where I travel around our state and elsewhere, Indiana University alumni and friends are always extremely eager to hear about the most recent accomplishments of IU's student-athletes.

Our student-athletes contribute enormously to the character of IU's campuses and play a major role in building and sustaining campus spirit.

They are the product of athletic programs that continue to reflect the deeply rooted values of our university community: integrity, a commitment to academic excellence, perseverance in the face of adversity, and a commitment to working hard and as part of a team.

And they are the ties that bind our hundreds of thousands of alumni to the university long after they have graduated and pursued a wide range of careers.

At center, Ben Yeagley, a member of the IU men's soccer team, on the field during a match against Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México held at Estadio Olímpico Universitario. Photo by Craig Bisacre, IU Athletics

We can all take great pride in the outstanding way our student-athletes continue to represent our campuses and the Indiana communities we serve. Whether they wear the name of Hoosiers, Jaguars, Cougars, Grenadiers, Red Hawks, Red Wolves or Titans, they are linked by a desire to be the best students and the best athletes they can be.

By any measure, this was an outstanding year for IU Athletics programs.

The numbers alone reflect just how much of a successful 2018-19 season it was for our IU Athletics programs in Bloomington, which produced:

  • A school-record nine teams that finished first or second in the Big Ten.
  • 49 total individual conference champions, up from 42 the previous year.
  • 84 All-America honors … and still counting! (Awards for baseball and rowing have yet to be announced.)
  • 14 programs that ranked in the top 25 during the season or that finished in the top 25 at the NCAA championships.

Beyond the stat sheet, the Hoosiers delivered several of the most memorable individual and team performances in recent years. Among the many highlights:

  • In the fall, our men's soccer team earned the program's 20th trip to the College Cup (an NCAA record), won both the Big Ten regular-season and postseason championships, and became the first Big Ten team to go 8-0 in conference games during the regular season. The team was led by Andrew Gutman, who won the MAC Hermann Trophy as college soccer's national player of the year. The team also embarked on a memorable spring break trip to Mexico City, where they played a match at the legendary Estadio Olimpico Universitario, one of various athletic and cultural activities organized by IU's new Mexico Gateway office.
  • Our women's swimming and diving team won its first Big Ten Championship since 2011 and earned a program-record fifth consecutive top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships. The incomparable Lilly King won NCAA titles in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events for the fourth consecutive year, establishing a new Big Ten record for individual NCAA titles and becoming the first woman in NCAA history to win eight breaststroke championships. King also won the Honda Sport Award for swimming and diving, becoming just the fourth Hoosier to win the honor and the first in 30 years.
  • Not to be outdone, our men's swimming and diving team, led by Big Ten coaches of the year Ray Looze and Drew Johansen, placed third at the NCAA Championships, marking the first time in 44 years that the team has had consecutive top-three finishes at nationals. The team also won its third straight Big Ten title, representing the program's first three-peat in 34 seasons. Vini Lanza earned Big Ten Swimmer of the Year and Swimmer of the Championships honors, while Andrew Capobianco won Big Ten Diver of the Year.
  • Our women's basketball team followed up its first-ever WNIT championship season by earning the program's sixth invitation to the NCAA tournament and advancing to the second round of competition for the second time in school history. Coach Teri Moren's squad won 21 games, marking the program's fourth consecutive 20-win season, a program record.
  • This spring, IU's baseball and softball teams shined on the diamond. Our baseball team, which pounded out an NCAA-best 90 home runs during the regular season, won the Big Ten regular season championship and earned its sixth invitation to the NCAA Championships in the last seven years. Coach Jeff Mercer was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and became the first Big Ten baseball coach in 37 years to lead his team to the league championship in his debut season. Our softball team began the year 14-0 for the program's longest winning streak in eight years. The team, which climbed as high as No. 16 in the national rankings, beat both No. 6 Georgia and No. 10 LSU during the season, marking the first time in program history that IU defeated two top 10 teams in the same year.
  • Coach Ron Helmer's men's and women's track and field teams each finished as the Big Ten runner-up during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. This marked the first time in 34 years that each of IU's track and field programs placed first or second at the conference meet during both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
  • For the first time in 32 years, IU signed both the state's Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball in the same year, and IU's incoming recruiting class for football is the program's highest-ranked ever and includes a program-record five four-star recruits.

And those were just a few of the successes in Bloomington. The athletics programs at IU campuses across our state also generated great excitement and numerous achievements during the year.

In 2018-19, we saw the IUPUI women's basketball team, led by Horizon League Player of the Year Macee Williams, earn its fourth-consecutive berth in the WNIT. We also watched the men's basketball team at our IU East campus earn its fourth consecutive quarterfinals appearance in the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship and the IU Kokomo men's basketball team cap a historic season by reaching the second round of the NAIA tournament for the first time in program history. Meanwhile, the women's basketball team at IU Northwest put together its best-ever season by earning a national ranking, a program-high 27 wins and a first-ever trip to the NAIA National Tournament Sweet 16.

This spring, the softball team at IU South Bend achieved a historic season with a record 23 victories and CCAC tournament berth, and for the second straight year, and seventh time in the last 11 years since the award was established, our IU Southeast campus captured the River States Conference Commissioner's All-Sports Cup, given to the school with the best combined performance across all sports.

Brittany Vanderbrink, a member of the IU South Bend softball team, in the CCAC tournament.  Photo courtesy of Jenna Marks Photography

As proud as we are of the success our student-athletes have had in competition, we are equally proud of their success in the classroom.

To this end, we saw a school-record 279 students from IU Bloomington's varsity sports earn academic All-Big Ten honors during the past academic year.

Additionally, 14 of our Bloomington athletics programs earned perfect 1,000 Academic Progress Report scores for the 2018-19 academic year, and 20 of our programs equaled or improved their score from the previous year. And IU's student-athletes achieved a school record Graduation Success Rate of 91.2 percent, which marked the seventh consecutive year they have improved their collective score.

These outstanding numbers are testament to the quality of our students and to the dedication of the members of the staff of IU Athletics, who stand behind the success of our student-athletes. They also reflect IU's deeply held commitment to fostering the intellectual, emotional, social and physical development of the university's outstanding student-athletes.

Over the last decade alone, that commitment has led to the development of a number of first-rate athletics facilities at IU Bloomington that provide our current student-athletes the academic and training resources they need to maximize their success in the classroom and on the playing field. These include, among others, the Cook Hall basketball practice facility, the North End Zone Student-Athlete Development Center, the Henke Hall of Champions, Bart Kaufman Field, the Andy Mohr Softball Field, and, of course, the renovated Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, which continues to live up to its billing as the "Carnegie Hall of college basketball."

To further enable our student-athletes to compete at the highest level, last fall we dedicated the new home of the IU Excellence Academy in the renovated and newly enclosed south end zone of Memorial Stadium, which has completely transformed the game-day experience for our fans. Even more importantly, the Excellence Academy houses some of the most innovative and effective personal-development programs in all of intercollegiate athletics, reflecting IU's deep commitment to a comprehensive approach to student-athlete development.

Earlier this year, we formally dedicated Wilkinson Hall, the new state-of-the-art arena for IU's volleyball and wrestling programs, and the IU Board of Trustees approved the renovation of Armstrong Stadium, the home of IU's soccer programs.

These two projects complete the Master Plan for IU's central and unified athletics campus, which IU trustees approved in 2010. The completion of this plan represents an investment by some of IU's most generous donors and the utilization of revenue from the very successful Big Ten Network of around $250 million over the last 10 years.

New facilities that support student-athletes on IU's regional campuses have also been recently constructed or are in progress, including the Student Events and Activities Building at IU East, which we formally dedicated in 2016, and a similar facility currently under construction at IU Kokomo. These centers serve as venues for varsity athletics and offer programming related to health, wellness, physical education and recreation.

We are extremely grateful to all of those who have generously supported -- and continue to support -- our student-athletes as they extend the traditions of academic and athletic excellence that have become synonymous with IU; play by the rules; and represent our university with passion, appreciation, respect and distinction.

And we are all looking forward with great enthusiasm to watching our teams build on their recent successes and bring more credit and honor to the university and themselves.

Welcoming a new Big Ten commissioner

Of course, our athletics programs in Bloomington are fortunate to compete within the oldest and the premier Division I athletic conference in the nation, the Big Ten Conference, which dates back well more than a century.

Kevin Warren, left, who will take on the role of Big Ten Commissioner, shakes hands with IU President McRobbie.  Photo courtesy of the Big Ten Network

Earlier this year, Jim Delany, who has served with enormous distinction as commissioner of the Big Ten for the last 30 years, announced his intention to step down. Jim is only the fifth person to have served as commissioner of our storied conference since its founding in 1896. Under his superb guidance, the conference has been a national leader in providing opportunities for students to earn a degree while competing in intercollegiate athletics. He was also responsible for founding the Big Ten Network.

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors carried out a national search to replace Commissioner Delany, and just a few weeks ago I had the great pleasure and honor of representing my fellow members of the council in announcing Kevin Warren as the Big Ten's sixth commissioner. Kevin currently serves as the chief operating officer for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and is now in his 21st year with the NFL, and his 14th year with the Vikings. During his time with the Vikings, the organization built a new $1.1 billion stadium on time and on budget -- the largest construction project in the history of the state of Minnesota. At the same time, the Vikings went from being in the bottom five in league revenue to being firmly in the top quarter of the NFL in overall revenue.

In Kevin, who has had a remarkable and pioneering career empowering young people and promoting diversity and inclusion, we believe we have identified a strategic, thoughtful and visionary leader with the ability to continue and build upon the traditions of excellence that have long been the hallmark of the Big Ten. And all of us at IU look forward to welcoming him to the university in the very near future.

Maintaining an affordable, world-class education

In my last President's Update letter, I shared how IU continues to be major college destination of choice for Hoosier students seeking a first-rate, affordable and accessible education. As this letter states, last month IU awarded a record 21,500 degrees across the state, and Indiana residents comprised 70 percent of the graduating class. These graduates reflect the degree to which IU provides the educational foundation for much of the state's workforce and for many of its professional leaders.

Of course, doing all that we can to ensure that an IU education is as affordable as possible continues to be among our paramount concerns. To this end, in recent years, we have kept tuition increases to historically low levels. The net price of attendance at IU (including room and board, books, etc.) has declined over each of the last three years, and the cost of IU remains very low compared to peer institutions. In fact, the average net price of attendance at IU Bloomington has gone down 5.5 percent over the past three years and averages more than a 15 percent reduction on all other IU campuses. Indeed, even with the modest tuition increase approved by IU trustees earlier this month, IU's tuition rates will remain below the national average for four-year public institutions.

Most IU students do not pay full tuition, and about 75 percent of IU students receive some form of federal, state, institutional or private financial assistance. In 2017-18, IU disbursed more than $1.2 billion in total financial aid and provided undergraduate students with $200 million in institutional gift aid. Since 2007, IU financial assistance for resident undergraduate students has increased by 227 percent, some of it being fueled by the success of the Bicentennial Campaign and serving as further proof of IU's commitment to ensuring that an IU education remains accessible to Hoosier students from low-income backgrounds.

IU is a national leader in financial literacy programs aimed at helping students keep their debt load to a minimum and to better understand the implications of borrowing. Over a recent six-year period, annual loan borrowing by IU students dropped by more than $126 million, or nearly 20 percent. For Indiana undergraduates, borrowing fell by more than $101 million, or 31 percent. (Read more about IU's affordability initiatives.)

Furthermore, IU continues to take measures to reduce costs, to become more efficient and to ensure that we are using our state funds and tuition revenues as wisely as possible. At the same time, we are redoubling our efforts to help students succeed in their academic pursuits, graduate on time, and find rewarding and satisfying employment.

In constructing IU's budget and in setting tuition, our main goal has always been finding the best way to balance the financial needs of students and their families against the need to both preserve the university's infrastructure and maintain the affordability and accessibility that is expected of the state's flagship university. This will always be our goal.

Introducing Big Red 200

A little over a week ago, IU, along with Cray Inc., was extremely pleased to announce the university's acquisition of the fastest university-owned supercomputer in the nation.

This new computer, appropriately named Big Red 200, will replace our enormously successful Big Red II Cray supercomputer, which began its service in 2013. It will support advanced research at IU in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and scientific and medical research.

The interior of the IU Data Center, which will soon be home to Big Red 200, the fastest university-owned supercomputer in the U.S. Photo by Emily Sternemen, Indiana University

Appropriately, Big Red 200 will become fully operational on IU's bicentennial anniversary on Jan. 20, 2020.

So just how fast is Big Red 200?

Consider that it would take everyone in the state of Indiana more than 28 years -- performing one calculation per second 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year -- to perform the same number of calculations that Big Red 200 can do in just one second! It is almost 300 times faster than the original Big Red supercomputer from 15 years ago.

Over the last two decades, IU has received great value from its supercomputer systems. They are used heavily by hundreds of IU researchers, scientists and students across the university, and they have contributed to a major increase in competitive research awards to IU. To this end, in 2018 alone, IU was awarded $185 million in research grant awards directly supported by the university's high-performance computing systems.

Among the many benefits of Big Red 200 are that it will support IU's close partnerships between IU Health and researchers at the IU School of Medicine to discover and advance insights for quality care; expand capabilities in cutting-edge artificial intelligence research; serve as an essential resource for the Precision Health Initiative, one of IU's Grand Challenges, which is designed to enhance the prevention, treatment and health outcomes of human diseases; and allow us to meet the high speed of today's cybersecurity threats.

A final word

This will be my last update for the 2018-19 academic year, which, by nearly every measure, has been yet another great one for IU.

This update began by describing the outstanding success of our Bicentennial Campaign in already achieving its goal of $3 billion with over a year still to go until its completion, and by describing the impact it is having on furthering IU's educational efforts and ensuring IU remains a magnet for the most able and deserving students. But the year has seen extraordinary achievements by all of our students, faculty and staff on all of our campuses and in a wide range of areas. As I have highlighted in previous updates, the year has also brought new records in the quality and diversity of our student body, new research discoveries and innovations, the naming of schools, continuing expansion of our infrastructure, increased engagement in the health and economic vitality of our local communities, and further growth in global engagement. And the list goes on.

All of our recent success is testament to your enormous hard work, energy and dedication. Of course, summer is traditionally a time when many in the IU community take vacations with family and friends to relax, recharge and reflect, which I hope you all have the opportunity to do.

On behalf of the entire university, let me thank you for all that you do for IU, and extend Laurie's and my very best wishes for an enjoyable and restful summer. And I look forward to seeing everyone back, re-energized for the IU Bicentennial and what promises to be one of the most exciting and memorable years ever at IU as we celebrate all that has made IU such a world-class institution, and as we explore the contours of its future.

Thank you most sincerely,

Michael A. McRobbie