A historic Day of Commemoration and an extraordinary start to IU’s third century

Dear Friend of IU:

Jan. 20 was a truly historic day for Indiana University. On it we celebrated the very day 200 years ago when then-Indiana Gov. Jonathan Jennings signed into law the bill that created IU. Over the subsequent two centuries, IU has grown to become one of the world’s leading research universities and has fueled an engine of opportunity and prosperity for Indiana and the nation, sparked discoveries that have helped solve some of our state’s and our world’s most pressing problems, led the state’s international engagement and illuminated the boundless possibilities of human imagination and creativity.

On that day of celebration we were delighted to welcome to Bloomington many of the alumni, friends and current and former administrators, faculty and staff of IU—from IU campuses and elsewhere across the state and beyond—who have, in the university’s recent years, supported and sustained our core education, research and community engagement missions through their teaching and research, dedicated service and generous philanthropic support.

That Monday was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when all of Dr. King’s remarkable achievements are commemorated and his legacy remembered. In his essay on "The Purpose of Education," Dr. King wrote, "Education must train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. …(It) must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction."

For 200 years, IU, one of the nation’s oldest public universities, has been dedicated to the pursuit of these very aims. They are fundamental to all that we do. Countless generations of students on IU’s campuses around our state have earned an education that has allowed them to develop the skills of argument and reasoning, of analysis and discernment, and of leadership and cooperation. In earning this kind of education, they have been part of a university community dedicated to the principle that our diversity makes us stronger and united by tolerance, respect and common bonds.

IU students at "An Afternoon with Viola Davis" on Jan. 20.  Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana University

Jan. 20 also saw a remarkable series of events to commemorate both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and IU’s Bicentennial that highlighted technology both old and new, the impact and importance of the arts, and the representation of the university’s history and ethos. These events included:

  • The dedication, before a standing-room-only crowd of 500 audience members, of the university's new Big Red 200 supercomputer, one of the fastest university-owned, artificial intelligence-capable supercomputers in the nation. Big Red 200, which is over 300 times faster than the original Big Red supercomputer we acquired 15 years ago, will push the boundaries of basic and applied research at the university across a wide range of disciplines, including health and medicine, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, environmental science, machine learning and physics.
  • The inaugural ringing of the bells of the Arthur R. Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon, relocated and rebuilt in the center of the IU Bloomington campus and which, through the addition of four new bells, is now one of fewer than 30 grand carillons in the world and one of only a handful nationwide. About 300 onlookers braved 20-degree weather at midday to hear world-renowned carillonneur and IU Jacobs School of Music alumnus John Gouwens perform the IU alma mater on the carillon, which more than 90,000 people have viewed online. The carillon, which will be formally dedicated and host its first official concert on April 26, also tolled 200 times on Jan. 20 in acknowledgement of IU's first 200 years.
  • The unveiling of two new allegorical paintings representing the university's Latin motto, "Lux et Veritas" at a 200th Anniversary Lunch held for about 250 students, faculty and staff who have developed numerous IU Bicentennial-related projects. These superb paintings, which now hang in Presidents Hall, were created by Bonnie Sklarski, professor emerita in the IU Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, and they are the first-ever works of art to interpret IU’s motto, which translates as "light and truth."
  • The debut of "Megajeff," a digitally reconstructed full-sized skeleton of a giant sloth that roamed Indiana during the ice age, which had been housed at IU during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Megalonyx jeffersonii, as it is officially known, will remain in The Commons at Franklin Hall for several weeks. Then it will begin a tour of other buildings at IU Bloomington and other IU campuses and schools around the state.
  • The unveiling before about 500 invited guests at a 200th Anniversary Dinner of a six-panel mural depicting the modern history of IU Bloomington. The mural, created by Caleb Weintraub, associate professor of painting in the IU Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, has been permanently installed in the Wright Quadrangle dining hall alongside seven existing murals that depict IU's history from 1820 to 1998, and it fills the gap through 2020. Among its other areas of focus, it highlights IU's commitment to building a diverse, multicultural community with its inclusion of IU's first African American president, Adam Herbert, as well as the first vice president focused on diversity matters in any Big Ten institution, Charlie Nelms. It also depicts the commitment of IU students to the pursuit of social justice, equality for all and the improvement of quality of life for members of the IU community and Indiana residents.
  • A keynote lecture to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by acclaimed actress Viola Davis. Around 6,000 current and former students, faculty, staff and friends gathered at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to hear Davis' truly inspiring lecture and see her receive an honorary IU doctoral degree. Davis, the first black actor to win acting's triple crown—Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards—also met with a group of IU students and gave a pep talk to members of the critically acclaimed IU African American Choral Ensemble, who delivered a rousing and uplifting performance before her address.
Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis speaks during IU's Day of Commemoration.  Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana University

Throughout the day's events and during Davis’ lecture, IU's social media channels served as virtual gathering spaces for members of IU's worldwide community to celebrate IU's Bicentennial and the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Reflecting the energy and excitement of the day and the start of IU's third century, IU news stories, photos and videos—including a video of prominent IU alumni and friends from around the world wishing the university a happy birthday—have been viewed more than 870,000 times and have been liked, shared or commented on more than 21,000 times.

Furthermore, stories from our friends in the news media helped generate another 15 million "views" of the Day of Commemoration, helping Hoosiers from all four corners of the state to share in the historic celebration.

Of course, while Jan. 20 was a day of commemorating a shared history, celebrating our successes and reflecting on our past and present, it also marked the beginning of IU’s third century. As such, and in keeping with the goals we set at the beginning of IU’s Bicentennial Year, which will continue through June, it offered a time to envision how the university will evolve and meet the challenges of its next 100 years.

If the lead-up to and first several days of IU’s third century offer any indication, IU is very well positioned to continue and build upon the enormous successes of the university’s first 200 years. Indeed, the recent events I will briefly describe in my first update of 2020 reflect outstanding work taking place all across the university to contribute to the cultural, economic and social advancement of our state and further the great traditions of academic excellence that have been IU’s hallmark.

IU’s renowned Kelley School of Business remained No. 1 among online MBA programs in the newest U.S. News and World Report rankings of online programs. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Another No. 1 ranking for Kelley, more recognition for pioneering IU Online

Earlier in January, we were extremely pleased to announce that IU’s renowned Kelley School of Business remained No. 1 among online MBA programs in the newest U.S. News and World Report rankings of online programs. The Kelley Direct Online MBA program tied for first, while its Master of Science online program ranked alone at second.

The Kelley Direct program began in 1999 as the first online MBA program to be offered by a top-ranked business school. Since then, almost 4,400 students have earned Kelley MBAs through the program, and almost 1,100 people have earned Master of Science degrees.

Additionally, the School of Education jumped nearly 20 spots from a year ago to 26th in the rankings, while the IU Online bachelor’s degree program remained a top 25 program, ranking 23rd. Also recognized was the online graduate program at the School of Nursing, which ranked 31st.  

While rankings are a subjective measure of quality, IU’s performance in the latest U.S. News rankings reflects the university’s pioneering leadership in online programs through IU Online at both the undergraduate and graduate level for more than two decades. We now offer more than 135 online IU degree and certificate programs and more than 2,500 IU courses on our seven campuses, all taught and developed by IU faculty. And this fall across IU, a record 31,254 students took at least one IU Online course, representing more than a third of this year's student body.

These figures are especially noteworthy and important as they further demonstrate IU's strong contribution to the state's ongoing efforts to help more Hoosiers earn their college degrees and ensure that more students graduate on time.

A roadmap to reduce student debt

IU continues to focus constantly on the issue of student debt. Indeed, IU’s path-breaking work in this area has already made it a national leader.

As I shared recently in this op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, we are one of several Midwestern institutions that have launched common-sense financial literacy initiatives to help students make wise borrowing decisions.

And these programs are generating real results. I invite you to read this commentary to learn more about how IU has dramatically reduced the amount of student borrowing and offered a roadmap for our peer institutions and lawmakers determined to find practical solutions to this important issue.

The renovated Maxwell Hall will house the new Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities.  Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

Major and transformational gifts

Over the last few weeks, we have announced a number of major gifts from individuals and organizations that share a commitment to our mission that is truly transforming our campuses and communities. Each counts toward the $3 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

These include a gift from IU Bloomington alumna and historical preservationist Gayle Cook. Her gift leverages a $500,000 matching Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund renovations to historic Maxwell Hall in the Old Crescent portion of campus.

The restored Maxwell Hall will house the new Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities. The new center will be home to several of IU Bloomington's most public-facing arts and humanities centers, including the Arts and Humanities Council. It also promises to have a dramatic impact on our efforts to nurture the talent and creativity of IU students, faculty and staff, as well as to more effectively share our magnificent arts and cultural resources with the surrounding community.

This month, we also announced that IU has received yet more major support from Lilly Endowment Inc. for our world-class rare books library. Following a recently announced $10.9 million grant to support much needed renovations at IU’s Lilly Library, Lilly Endowment Inc. will generously provide an additional $500,000 to fund the commission of an inspirational and iconic cycle of murals as part of IU’s Bicentennial celebration. These murals, which will spotlight some of the library’s treasured collections and themes, will serve as a visual centerpiece of the library’s Reading Room, where scholars and researchers spend thousands of hours each year. 

Last week we announced an extremely generous $16 million gift from the Brian and Sheila Jellison Family Foundation to the Kelley School of Business. The gift will support the development of new state-of-the-art studios and “virtual classrooms” for students, new financial literacy programming and scholarships for students to study abroad. It will also help advance the goals of the Brian D. Jellison Living Learning Center, which currently helps 550 freshman business students each year to identify their strengths, interests and talents through special programs, study groups and travel opportunities.

This is a truly transformational gift in that it touches so many aspects of the Kelley School. Naming the Kelley Living Learning Center in honor of the late Brian Jellison, a 1968 IU graduate named by Harvard Business Review in 2014 and in 2018 as one of the best performing CEOs in the world, is particularly significant. A native of Portland, Ind., Mr. Jellison, was widely recognized as an innovative and revered leader of the highest integrity, a mentor to many and someone who brought great pride to IU through his belief in the power of education and giving back to others.

IU School of Medicine scientists and physicians were awarded more than $189 million in NIH research funding in the 2019 federal fiscal year. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

Another record-setting year for research at IU School of Medicine

Several days ago, we announced that the IU School of Medicine set another school record for research funding received from the National Institutes of Health, the lead federal agency responsible for biomedical and public health research. This is the fourth consecutive year the school has set a new record for NIH funding.

IU School of Medicine scientists and physicians were awarded more than $189 million in NIH research funding in the 2019 federal fiscal year—about $40 million more than the school record from the previous year. The school’s NIH funding has increased more than $80 million, or 70 percent, over the last four years.

The school is now ranked 14th out of 92 public medical schools that receive NIH funding and 28th out of 145 medical schools overall. Both are school records. It has also risen to fifth in the country in funding from the National Institute on Aging, the NIH branch that is the primary funder of Alzheimer’s disease research. Additionally, the School of Medicine’s pediatrics program ranks sixth out of all U.S. departments of pediatrics.

This funding demonstrates IU’s leadership in seeking solutions to some of our world’s most challenging diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, one of the school’s top priorities. It also indicates the major impact our excellent medical research has on our state’s economy.

According to a report by United for Medical Research, every $1 million in NIH funding awarded to Indiana researchers creates 18 jobs and $2.8 million in economic activity in 2018. Based on that data, IU School of Medicine’s 2019 NIH funding sustains more than 3,400 jobs—2,400 of which are within Indiana. Income from those jobs, along with spending on equipment, services and materials, generates an estimated $529 million annually in economic activity.

IU maintains highest credit rating

IU enters its third century highly affordable and accessible with the net cost of attendance very low compared to our peers. Our expanding research enterprise is also strong and well-placed to meet the challenges that our state, nation and world will confront in the next century.

Of course, our ability to operate from a position of strength is a result of many strategic actions, including those designed to keep our institution financially strong and fiscally responsible.

Earlier this month, we announced that IU remains among an elite group of American public universities to achieve the highest possible credit ratings from both S&P Global and Moody's Investor Service. IU has held S&P's AAA rating since 2016 and Moody's Aaa rating since 2010.

S&P and Moody's also issued their highest available short-term ratings, A-1+ and P-1, to the university.

These ratings continue to reflect IU’s continuing fiscal discipline and efforts toward greater efficiency in how we use our resources, which, in turn, are allowing us to build upon the great progress we have made in recent years.

A brief word of thanks

As a final word, I want to express my most sincere thanks to the many individuals who have played a role in the extraordinary achievements I have just shared and to all who participated in our Day of Commemoration to help celebrate a memorable and truly historic day for IU.

As I said during one of our Bicentennial events, the stories of IU are the stories of its people—the students, faculty and staff who have helped to build and sustain the university in ever-greater cycles of excellence, as well as our loyal alumni, friends and community neighbors to our campuses across our state who have helped to transform IU from a small seminary into one of the world’s leading public research universities.

With your continued dedicated service and generous support, as IU enters its third century, we will remain steadfastly committed to our outstanding traditions—traditions have been the bedrock of our great university in its first two centuries.

With great appreciation, as always, for all that you continue to do for IU,

Michael A. McRobbie