Delivering a world-class education, ensuring student success and preparing the leaders of tomorrow

Dear Friend of Indiana University:

As I write to you today, we are all still basking in the memories of another exciting commencement season — always one of the highlights of any academic year. Over the course of nine days, we held graduation ceremonies at each of our seven campuses and awarded 21,500 Indiana University degrees — a new all-time record for the university and, by far, the largest number of degrees awarded by any institution in Indiana. Nearly 100,000 people participated in all of IU's commencement ceremonies, making for an unforgettable send-off for IU's newest Hoosier alumni.

Our core campuses in Bloomington and Indianapolis both set records this spring for the largest graduating classes in their histories, awarding more than 17,000 degrees between them, while two of our regional campuses, IU East and IU Kokomo, also graduated record numbers of students.

Collectively, IU's graduates of the Class of 2019 hailed from all 92 Indiana counties, all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and 138 countries. Nearly 7 out of every 10 of our graduates, who ranged in age from 19 to 76 years old, were residents of Indiana, more than half were women, and over one in five were first-generation college students.

As I have said on many occasions, there truly is no better testament to IU's commitment to delivering a world-class education, as well as the career preparation that our students and our state's leading employers expect, than the number of students that we graduate every year. 

Members of the Class of 2019 also had the distinction of being the last graduates of IU's second century. In just 32 days, we will commence the yearlong celebration of IU's Bicentennial, and on Jan. 20, 2020, we will observe the university's official founding 200 years ago. Thus, it seemed most appropriate, as we honored this special group of graduates, to reflect on the immense achievements of all of those who walked IU's grounds before them and the remarkable impact that so many IU alumni and faculty — including several who have attained "legendary" status —  have had on our state, nation and world.

Indiana University awarded 21,500 Indiana University degrees during commencement ceremonies held at its campuses across the state. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

As I highlighted in my commencement address, in the span of a few weeks, we saw the passing of four such giants of IU: former Sen. Birch Bayh, the only lawmaker since the Founding Fathers to author two constitutional amendments; internationally renowned scientist David Hamburg, who after graduating from the IU School of Medicine attained the loftiest heights of leadership in the fields of medicine and psychiatry; former Sen. Richard Lugar, one of our nation's most illustrious and visionary statesmen, with myriad legislative accomplishments to his name; and trailblazing football star George Taliaferro, the first African-American to be drafted by the National Football League and namesake of the newly announced George Taliaferro Plaza at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences to the late IU Distinguished Professor Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to ever earn this honor.

I would need multiple President's Updates and speeches to do even the slightest justice to the extraordinary successes of these individuals, the enormous challenges they overcame and the contributions they made toward improving the lives of others.

But I can confidently say that the achievements of all five clearly demonstrate how an IU education prepares its students for careers of sustained excellence, provides them with the knowledge and experience to address our society's greatest challenges and instills in them a commitment to public service and advancing the common good.

They are also testament to a set of shared skills and virtues that make greatness possible. These character traits include a commitment to scholarship and rigorous academic study that continued well beyond the years of formal education; an unremitting dedication to the search for truth; a commitment to working with others, including those who may not always share the same opinions; and a belief in treating others with decency and respect and standing up for what is right.

All of us can take great pride in knowing that the qualities and virtues exemplified by these five great figures from IU's history are the very virtues that our students learn during their time at the university. And these will remain constant, even as the world we live in continues to change.

In the years to come — and as IU prepares to embark on its third century of excellence — we can fully expect that our students will apply all that they have learned and experienced to achieve the greatest personal and professional success, and make the communities in which they will live and work better for all.

I invite you to enjoy this special multimedia project from IU News that celebrates and tells the stories of the Class of 2019 as its members, representing all of our campuses and IU Online, begin the exciting next chapter of their lives.

Looking to the future: IU's new Goldwater Scholars

The final days of spring give us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our new graduates. Occasionally, they also permit us to look forward to the future successes of our returning students.

In early May, we announced that three students in IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences — all of whom are from Indiana — were named Goldwater Scholars for the 2019-20 academic year. One of our nation's top student fellowship programs, this honor recognizes outstanding college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate great promise in math, engineering or science.

Juniors Kaeli Bryant of Greenwood, Maria del Valle Coello of Evansville and Julian Gass of Bloomington were among the 496 students selected by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, the federally endowed agency that awards the scholarships. They were chosen from over 5,000 students at 443 colleges and universities.

And as another point of pride, they gave IU the proud distinction of having more Goldwater Scholars than any other Indiana college or university this upcoming year.

Enhancing our reputation: IU's world-class faculty

It cannot be said too often that students' academic experience at IU is what sustains our nearly 200-year-old institution — through engaged students, students who re-register each semester, students who graduate with degrees that will help them secure good, meaningful employment, and alumni who recognize the value and life-changing experience at IU. That academic experience occurs in many places, but it begins in the classroom, laboratory and studio under the direction of a world-class faculty.

IU Distinguished Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Linda B. Smith was recently awarded the 2019 Norman Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  Photo by Mike Jackson, Indiana University

We are fortunate to have faculty who are relentless in their quest to educate our students at the highest levels and to bring new and innovative approaches to their teaching. At the same time, they are engaged in a wide range of research and scholarship that results in the generation of intellectual works and discoveries that cure disease, protect our environment, help secure our nation, grow the economy, and advance art and culture in our communities.

And when they are recognized — as they frequently are — for their scholarship, teaching, research and creative activities, they help greatly strengthen the national and international standing of our state and its flagship university.

To this end, IU Distinguished Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Linda B. Smith, one of the world's foremost cognitive psychologists, recently brought major distinction to IU and Indiana by receiving two highly prestigious honors. In April, she was awarded the 2019 Norman Anderson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the oldest and most distinguished honor society for psychology. The award recognizes her pioneering work, including her current research on infants' visual experience, which could lead to effective new treatments for childhood developmental disorders such as autism.

Several days later, Smith was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of her distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The academy was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to provide policy advice on science, engineering and health to the federal government and other organizations. Her selection raises the total number of IU-affiliated faculty who have previously been elected members of the National Academy of Sciences to 29. She is also the first woman at IU to be named to the academy since Elinor Ostrom received the honor in 2001.

April also saw Marietta Simpson, Rudy Professor of Music (Voice) in the IU Jacobs School of Music, elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious academic societies, which recognizes outstanding achievements in the arts, business, education, government, medicine, public affairs and the sciences. Simpson, who joined IU's faculty in 2005, is a world-renowned mezzo-soprano who has sung with many major orchestras in the U.S. and Europe and performed on some of the greatest opera stages of the world.

IU Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry and Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka recently received a major fellowship award from the Academy of American Poets, in recognition of his literary accomplishments and to support his civic engagement. Matejka, one of only 13 fellows from across the U.S. named this year, will use the $100,000 award to expand the "Poetry for Indy" program, which offers free workshops in Indiana cities with underserved and culturally and economically diverse communities. He will also launch a digital archive of poetry, INverse, in conjunction with the Indiana Arts Commission and the Indiana State Library, that will serve as a historical document of poetry in Indiana and a resource for Hoosier teachers.

Finally, in April, I had the privilege of helping celebrate Professor Alvin Rosenfeld's 50 years at Indiana University and his many outstanding contributions to the university and to his field.

Alvin Rosenfeld, a distinguished scholar of Jewish literature and Holocaust studies at Indiana University who founded the university's pioneering Borns Jewish Studies Program and Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, receives the IU President's Medal for Excellence from IU President McRobbie. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

Alvin is the founder and former longtime director of IU's renowned Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program, which is part of IU's Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He helped make IU one of the first public institutions in the nation to offer such a program, which, since its founding more than 45 years ago, has granted more degrees in Jewish studies than any non-denominational university in the nation. He is also the founder and director of IU's Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, one of the only university programs of its kind in the U.S. Under his outstanding leadership, the institute performs an invaluable service through its international leadership in the timely study of contemporary antisemitism.

Alvin has received many honors and awards over his distinguished career, including being named senior fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in December. We were extremely pleased to add to those honors by awarding him the President's Medal for Excellence, the highest honor an IU president can bestow, in recognition of the lasting and far-reaching impact he has made on IU, on the field of Jewish studies and on the consciousness of our nation.

Making room for better learning

At IU, we continue to believe that the best students and best faculty deserve the very best spaces in which to learn, teach, create, collaborate and innovate.

Innovation Hall, for which we symbolically broke ground in April, will be such a space. IUPUI's newest classroom building will provide much-needed research and classroom space to accommodate the growth of the three schools whose programs it will house: the School of Science, the School of Engineering and Technology and the School of Informatics and Computing.

Importantly, it will support future high-quality instruction in the vitally important STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — fields that help increase the base of highly skilled workers who meet state and national needs in a wide variety of industries.

A rendering of Innovation Hall, a multidisciplinary research and classroom building. Rendering courtesy of the Office of the Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities

As a "gateway" building, it will also provide members of the university community and visitors to IUPUI with an even stronger and more visceral sense that they are entering a campus that has, over the last half-century, firmly established itself nationally as a thriving urban research campus.

Remembering I.M. Pei

Earlier this month, members of the IU community joined many others around the nation and world in mourning the passing of the internationally renowned architect of the IU Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, I.M. Pei, who died May 16 at age 102.

Pei was one of the most accomplished and admired architects of the 20th century, and his visionary design of our iconic Eskenazi Museum has contributed to its standing as one of the premier art museums in the world, as well as a source of inspiration to the many IU students, faculty, staff and other visitors who have passed through its doors. He also designed the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library in downtown Columbus, Indiana, which is home to IU's new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design.

We are truly honored to be home to one of his many architectural masterpieces, which also include the legendary Louvre Museum in Paris and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. And we are greatly looking forward to the official reopening of the Eskenazi Museum, which is undergoing a major renovation, in October. 

A final word: Preparing our state's leaders of tomorrow

By almost every measure, IU is fulfilling its promise to the people of Indiana to provide an education of the highest quality and produce more and better graduates in areas of central importance to our state and our nation.

We are strengthening our standing here and around the world to ensure that an IU degree is regarded as one of the finest and most respected degrees offered by any U.S. college or university.

And we are engaging all of our energies, expertise and resources toward preparing the leaders of tomorrow — those who will join the likes of Hoosier legends like Bayh, Hamburg, Lugar, Ostrom and Taliaferro — who will have the courage to respond when confronted with immense challenges and when called upon to advance the common good, and who will burnish the traditions of excellence that have long been synonymous with IU and our state.

All of this does not happen, of course, without the strong, energetic and unwavering support of a network of committed faculty, staff, alumni, friends and partners all around the world.

Thank you for all that you have done — and continue to do — to build upon IU's worldwide reputation for excellence and support our missions to build the leaders of tomorrow and improve the world for future generations.

With many thanks,

Michael A. McRobbie