Monroe County Bicentennial Opening Celebration

Monroe County Courthouse Rotunda

Sunday, January 14, 2018

IU and Monroe County: Two centuries of partnership

Thank you, Commissioner Barge.

Indiana University is very pleased to call Monroe County home. The county provides a wonderfully welcoming environment for our students. It provides a safe, family-friendly, and stimulating community that is attractive to IU faculty, staff, and their families. And it is a community that IU alumni remember with great fondness—and to which many eventually return as contributing residents in various capacities.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie delivers his address at the Monroe County Bicentennial Opening Celebration at the Monroe County Courthouse on Jan. 14.

Today’s Bicentennial celebration underscores the fact that IU and the Monroe County community are, in so many ways, inseparable, interdependent, and interconnected. Ours is a partnership that has thrived since the university’s inception.

Among the earliest settlers of Monroe County were a number of Indiana University’s visionary founders, including David H. Maxwell, often called “the father of Indiana University.”

In 1854, when the county and the university were still young, IU’s first building on the Seminary Square site was destroyed by fire, and the citizens of this frontier community raised $10,000 to rebuild it.

All those who gave at least $100 to help rebuild the university were given what was then known as a “quietus”—a full scholarship to IU that could be used by the donor or a family member. There was no provision for these scholarships to expire, so when the original bearer of the quietus passed away, the scholarship could be handed down from generation to generation through wills. In fact, it still exists! This “perpetual scholarship” for the descendants of IU’s first donors reflects the longstanding commitment of Monroe County to IU and IU to Monroe County—a mutual commitment that has only continued to grow.

Over the course of the university’s early years, there were multiple calls to move the university to Indianapolis. But the character of this community, its natural beauty, and the strength of its people made Monroe County the ideal place for the state’s flagship residential research university.

IU Bicentennial Celebrations

Though the official anniversary of IU’s founding falls on January 20th, 2020, our Bicentennial celebrations are already underway. These celebrations will reach their peak during the 2019-2020 academic year, which will kick off with an official opening celebration in the fall of 2019, and conclude with a Bicentennial Gala in June of 2020.

I invite you to visit IU’s Bicentennial website at for more information on these and many other events.

In addition, we have launched a number of major Bicentennial projects, two of which I want to briefly highlight as they are closely related to the history of Monroe County.

The IU Bicentennial Oral History Project is gathering stories from alumni, current and former faculty, and current and former IU staff members. These interviews fill the gaps in our written history and ensure that we are leaving a crucial institutional resource for our colleagues to draw upon one hundred years from now as they document the university’s heritage. I invite any and all of you who have connections to IU to volunteer as interviewees—or as interviewers—to help gather this crucial evidence of our collective past and present. 

We have also created the IU Bicentennial Medal, a prestigious honor that will be awarded during our Bicentennial year to honor distinguished and distinctive service in support of IU’s mission as a public university. The medal will be cast from metal from the historic bells of IU’s Student Building—bells that were damaged or melted when fire gutted the building in 1990. Hoagy Carmichael, one of Monroe County’s most famous former citizens, wrote that he learned to play the piano by listening to “Hail to Old IU” being played on those original bells, and then picking out the melody on his mother’s piano. The bells will live on through IU’s Bicentennial Medal.

Conclusion: Mutual benefit of partnerships

In strong partnership with the Monroe County community over nearly 200 years, Indiana University has grown from its humble beginnings in the wilderness into a powerhouse global research university that has delivered great benefits to the county, the people of Indiana, and the nation—and promises to do even more in its third century.

We are indeed fortunate in the deep and enduring relationship we have with this community.

Just as Indiana University and Monroe County have grown together, so too do we celebrate together!

We celebrate not only our two centuries of shared history, but also the cooperation that takes place on a daily basis between IU and the government, businesses, schools, and citizens of this great county.

We look forward to even greater cooperation in the century to come.

Thank you very much.