Evolving to meet the needs and challenges of IU's third century

Dear Friend of IU:

As I write to you today, we at Indiana University are in the stretch run of what has been a busy, exciting and eventful fall semester and the first half of our celebration of one of the most momentous milestones in IU's history: the 200th anniversary of the university's founding on Jan. 20, 1820.

Our Bicentennial Year has been nothing short of extraordinary thus far, and we are all enthusiastic about the special activities, programs and events we have planned for the coming weeks and months.

The Bicentennial has provided us with numerous opportunities to celebrate and chronicle all that the university has accomplished in its first two centuries and the challenges it has overcome. It has also allowed us to pay tribute to the countless individuals and organizations that have helped advance the core missions of Indiana's flagship public university. As I have said on many occasions, what makes IU strongest is the people who drive the success of our outstanding academic and research programs, who are deeply and passionately engaged in strengthening the communities we serve, and who help us continue to ensure a high-quality, affordable and accessible education for our students.

However, another dominating theme has emerged during the first half of our Bicentennial Year, and that is what IU is doing to build on the enormous successes of its first 200 years and meet the challenges of its third century, which will commence on Jan. 20, 2020.

We are fortunate to be part of a community that continues to be acutely aware of the challenges we will face in our next century. As I said in my Bicentennial address this fall, this awareness has driven much of the reform, restructuring, renovation and rebuilding that have taken place across all of IU's campuses over the past decade or more. While IU's Bicentennial is, strictly speaking, an extended reflection on what has come before, we can look at it as a launching pad for what the institution will look like in its next 100 years and how we will honor and strengthen the traditions of academic excellence that have made us one of the world's greatest public research universities.  

As such, I would like to share with you several recent developments at IU that underscore our continuing commitment to deliver outstanding liberal arts and professional education; develop an active and engaged Hoosier citizenry; adapt and innovate to meet the evolving needs of our students and our state's leading employers; address the biggest challenges facing our communities; and enrich the cultural heritage of Indiana, the nation and the world.

Establishing a new major initiative in AI

In October, we were delighted to announce that IU alumnus and information technology pioneer Fred Luddy had made an extraordinarily generous gift of $60 million — the second-largest private gift in the history of IU — to what will be now known as the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering.

Fred's gift will accelerate the progress of the school, which we established in 1999, as one of the best of its kind in the world through the support of new scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as new endowments that will support the creation of chairs, professorships and other faculty positions.

IU unveiled the sign designating the newly named Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

It will also provide for the establishment of the Luddy Center for Artificial Intelligence, an innovative, state-of-the-art center, which will be part of the school. The center will focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning and their impact on digital health and medicine. The gift will also fund the construction of a building to house the center, which will feature first-rate teaching and learning spaces to support IU faculty and students doing pioneering work in AI and machine learning and to encourage and enhance interdisciplinary collaborations.

The Luddy Center for Artificial Intelligence will help establish IU and the Luddy School at the forefront of research and education in artificial intelligence and digital health. Further projects in this area, based on IU's extensive disciplinary strengths in related areas, will also be formed as additional support is obtained from other sources.

We are enormously grateful to Fred for his willingness to support a major initiative in this area at IU, for his dedicated service to the school, and for his philanthropy, which will touch the lives of countless students, faculty and staff. It will also have a transformative impact on the mission of the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering as the school continues to help build a vibrant culture of building and making across the Hoosier state.

Here is a video of Fred describing, in his own words, the vision and mission of the school that now bears his name.

Unveiling the new Eskenazi Museum of Art

Earlier this month, we were extremely pleased to celebrate the highly anticipated reopening of one of IU’s great treasures and one of the premier university art museums in the world: the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art.

On Nov. 7, the Eskenazi Museum publicly unveiled its magnificent new $30 million comprehensive renovation funded from a landmark $15 million gift from Indianapolis-based philanthropists Sidney and Lois Eskenazi that was matched by the IU Bloomington campus. The Eskenazis have also donated to the museum a collection of nearly 100 works of art, consisting primarily of lithographs by 20th-century European and American masters, which they painstakingly and lovingly collected over many years.

The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at IU Bloomington reopened after a $30 million renovation. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

The Eskenazi Museum, which was designed in 1982 by internationally renowned architect I.M. Pei, who passed away this year at age 102, is home to an acclaimed collection of works of art and other important artifacts from nearly every culture throughout history that has produced art. The collection includes more than 45,000 objects from around the world, from ancient to modern times, making it one of the largest art holdings of any American university art museum.

The renovated museum now includes expanded gallery spaces, new teaching facilities, and new amenities for artists and visitors. These amenities include a time-based media gallery that can exhibit emerging and experimental digital art, a new art-making studio that will host wellness and other special programming, and updated entrances that make the museum more accessible.

All of us at IU are profoundly grateful to the Eskenazis for their extraordinarily generous gift for this much-needed renovation and restoration. Their generosity will touch the lives of countless students, faculty, staff and community members, and it will strengthen the museum's standing as an invaluable cultural resource, not just for Bloomington, but for the region and the state.

This video highlights the history of the Eskenazi Museum and its remarkable architectural design.

Celebrating the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design

Those who know Sidney and Lois Eskenazi know that their generosity extends well beyond the walls of the Eskenazi Museum. It is almost impossible to overstate all that they have done to further IU's rich and longstanding traditions in the arts and humanities.

The Eskenazi family attended a naming ceremony to celebrate the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design.  Photo by Anna Powell Teeter

This fall, we celebrated the naming of the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design in recognition of their generous gift of $20 million, which we announced in April as part of our annual IU Day celebration. Their gift, the largest gift in the history of the school, will support student scholarships, faculty development and the construction of a new building for the school based on a design created for IU in the 1950s by another great architect: the legendary Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the founders of modern architecture. When completed, this will be the first new building designed by Mies van der Rohe completed in nearly 50 years and most likely his last.

The Eskenazi School is part of a long tradition of excellence in the fine arts at IU Bloomington. It has its historical roots in the Department of Studio Art, which was founded in 1895, and which grew to become one of the nation's premier art programs.

Today, the school features excellent programs in studio art, apparel merchandising and interior design — as well as the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program based in Columbus, Indiana, a city whose architecture has been nationally and internationally acclaimed. Through these programs, the Eskenazi School is providing a state-of-the-art education to students who will enter careers in a world where design is of fundamental importance to all areas of business and industry, and where design theories, technologies and methods of delivery and consumption are being rapidly transformed by new innovations in information technology, such as 3D printing.

Once again, we are grateful to Sidney and Lois Eskenazi for their remarkable generosity, their friendship and their support of our students, who are preparing to lead the next generation of artists, architects, designers and merchandisers.

Pushing new frontiers of excellence: IU's world-class faculty

As IU prepares to embark upon a new century, its teaching and research enterprise is strong and well-positioned to meet the challenges this century will bring. Fundamental to this strength are excellent faculty of outstanding ability who are innovators in their fields and whose scholarship, research and reputations are central to IU's standing. Indeed, our faculty members truly are world-class, and this is reflected in the number of top honors and awards they continue to receive.

Today, it was announced that nine IU faculty members have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, founded in 1848. This highly prestigious honor recognizes outstanding contributions to the progress of science and research.

IU's new AAAS fellows are:

  • Lynda Bonewald, professor of anatomy, cell biology and physiology and professor of orthopaedic surgery at the IU School of Medicine.
  • Brian R. Calvi, professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology.
  • Susan Elrod, chancellor of IU South Bend and professor of biology.
  • James E. Klaunig, professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.
  • Justin P. Kumar, professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology.
  • Michael A. McRobbie, president of IU and professor of computer science and informatics and philosophy.
  • Krishnan Raghavachari, IU Distinguished Professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry.
  • Michael VanNieuwenhze, the Standiford H. Cox Professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry.
  • Kevin Zumbrun, IU Distinguished Professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Mathematics.

This election brings the number of AAAS fellows affiliated with IU to 120. More than half of those have earned the honor in the past 13 years, illustrating the success of IU's ongoing effort to increase the number of its faculty recognized for their excellence and nominated for membership in the nation's and the world's major scholarly academies and organizations.

I am extremely honored and privileged to join IU South Bend Chancellor Susan Elrod among this year's AAAS fellows from IU and to be part of such an accomplished group of scholars and researchers. Indeed, I am continually astounded by the depth and breadth of our faculty's knowledge and expertise, the public impact of their research, and the strides they are making toward answering questions of major importance to humanity.

This recognition from AAAS reflects the first-rate research and scholarship taking place at IU across a wide range of disciplines and professions, as well as the university's longstanding tradition of pushing new frontiers in scientific discovery.

Last month, we were also pleased to recognize two faculty members who have earned enormous distinction and whose work at IU has contributed in major ways to the university's continued strength and excellence in the areas of the life sciences and global health. At the 13th annual Academic Excellence Dinner, I awarded the President's Medal for Excellence, the highest honor an IU president can bestow, to Dr. Robert Einterz, executive director of the AMPATH consortium and director of the IU Center for Global Health, and Jeffrey Palmer, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences,

Strengthening IU's glorious traditions in the arts and cultural diversity

IU's yearlong Bicentennial celebration has offered us an opportunity to highlight and reinforce the university's longstanding and deep commitment to the arts, which enable us to provide a well-rounded education to our students, create and sustain a culturally diverse community, and foster intercultural understanding.

IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater revived one of IU's great earlier traditions by remounting Richard Wagner's opera "Parsifal" for the first time in more than four decades. Photo by Sarah J. Slover, IU Jacobs School of Music

Earlier this month, the IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater revived one of IU's great earlier traditions by remounting Richard Wagner's immense opera "Parsifal" for the first time in more than four decades. The performances were, without a doubt, one of the highlights of our Bicentennial celebration thus far, and they furthered the outstanding international reputation of the Jacobs School. Indeed, there is perhaps no other school of music in the world that could have performed — and performed so masterfully — what is considered one of the most unique and extraordinarily demanding works in the operatic repertoire, one rarely performed in the U.S.

Also this month, we once again hosted the annual Potpourri of the Arts, which showcases the talented members of the IU community who have contributed to the rich and varied traditions of African American music and dance and enhanced IU's glorious tradition in the arts.

This year's Potpourri was extra special as it took place during the 45th anniversary of IU's African American Arts Institute, the first and only credit-bearing university program in the nation dedicated to the performance and promotion of black music and dance. Its three superb performing ensembles — the African American Dance Company, the African American Choral Ensemble and the IU Soul Revue — have long been integral and much respected parts of the vibrant arts community at IU.

Additionally, the Potpourri featured legendary bass player, singer-songwriter and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Bootsy Collins, who served as master of ceremonies and who collaborated with members of the IU Soul Revue to create a new funk arrangement of the IU fight song, which was performed live at the event for the first time. During the event, we were delighted to add to this incomparable artist's many honors by presenting him with the IU Bicentennial Medal in recognition of his pioneering career in music and the generosity he has shown in sharing his time and expertise with IU students.

Building an active and engaged citizenry

As IU prepares for its third century, it continues to educate students for lifetimes of engaged, active citizenship and preparing them for public service. In turn, we see our students continue to engage in volunteering activities and other service opportunities through which they are helping to improve the health and well-being of their communities.

The voting rate of IU Bloomington students increased by a dramatic 302 percent from the 2014 to the 2018 midterm elections. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

These include the thousands of IU students who continue to raise record amounts in support of Riley Hospital for Children through their participation in and leadership of the annual IU Dance Marathon, IU's largest student philanthropic event and one of the largest events of its kind at any university in this country. This month, our tireless students raised a record of more than $4.25 million, marking the fourth consecutive year they have raised more than $4 million for Riley. This is a tremendous achievement that will benefit countless children and families who receive treatment at one of the nation's leading pediatric hospitals.

This month has also delivered the welcome news that our students are increasingly exercising one of their greatest and most important rights — the right to vote — and ensuring their voices are heard. Following IU Bloomington's participation in the inaugural Big Ten Voting Challenge and the national All In Campus Democracy Challenge, the voting rate of IU Bloomington students increased by a dramatic 302 percent from the 2014 to the 2018 midterm elections. More than 35 percent of eligible IU Bloomington students voted in the November 2018 midterm election, a 26.3 percentage point increase from the 2014 midterm.

As a result of the increased voter turnout, my fellow Big Ten Conference presidents and I have proudly agreed to continue the friendly, nonpartisan challenge for the upcoming 2020 presidential election, and we have once again pledged $10,000 each to be used on our respective campuses to promote student public engagement. Our shared goal is to ensure our students take pride in being part of a curious, productive and public-spirited civil society, and that their dreams, ideals and values receive the attention they deserve.

A final word

As we approach the end of the fall semester — and with less than two months to go until the 200th anniversary of the university's founding — we can all take great pride in knowing that IU is well-prepared to leverage the strengths of its highly acclaimed schools and programs, its academic centers, its magnificent arts and cultural institutions, its world-class faculty, its highly engaged student body and, indeed, all of its assets, so the university can continue to serve the most important needs of our state, our nation and our world.

We can also take great pride in knowing that we continue to further IU's longstanding tradition of adapting, innovating and evolving so we can better serve our fellow citizens and bring the university's formidable resources to bear on the greatest challenges facing humanity.

Of course, none of the recent accomplishments and changes I have just described would have been possible without the strong and unwavering support of IU's alumni, friends and supporters around the world, who have enthusiastically embraced our need for change and often have helped make it happen.

To all of you, I offer our most grateful thanks for your dedicated, devoted and selfless efforts over so many decades in support of IU. And I look forward to continuing to work closely with you as we strengthen the traditions of academic excellence and engagement that have been a hallmark of our university for its first 200 years and set IU on the course for greatness in its third century.

With thanks as always,

Michael A. McRobbie