Special Event and Announcements in Celebration of IU's Master of Architecture Program

Republic building
Columbus, Indiana

Monday, April 30, 2018

IU President McRobbie speaks about the architectural significance of Columbus and the importance of having the School of Art, Architecture and Design's new Master of Architecture program in the former Republic Newspaper building. Photo by Chris Meyer, IU Communications

Architectural masterpieces as part of the fabric of life

Last September, the IU Cinema in Bloomington held two sold-out screenings of the independent film, Columbus, which was set and filmed right here in the city. This critically-acclaimed film features a number of the city’s magnificent modernist architectural masterpieces, including The Miller House and Irwin Union Bank—both National Historical Landmarks designed by the legendary architect Eero Saarinen; as well as the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library, designed by I.M. Pei, and the building in which we are gathered tonight, the Republic Building, designed by Myron Goldsmith.

The film’s writer and director, Kogonada, who was present for one of the IU Cinema screenings, was drawn to Columbus as a film location because he recognized that it is remarkable in that it is a city where architectural masterpieces are part of the fabric of everyday life.

Indiana University had also long recognized and appreciated the richness and greatness of the architectural heritage of Columbus, and has seen it as an enormous opportunity to build an academic program based on it.

In June 2009 I met with the late Dick Johnson, whose wife Ruth I am delighted to see is here today, to discuss this opportunity. Out of this meeting came an agreement to establish, as a first step in this direction, what became the IU Center for Art + Design, which we dedicated in 2011 and which is presently located in a building which was also the work of a great architect, Cesar Pelli.

This agreement grew out of a partnership that IU developed with the Community Education Coalition of Columbus, led by the indefatigable John Burnett, from whom we will hear later. For nearly seven years, the Center, under Professor Kelly Wilson’s outstanding leadership, has specialized in teaching design studies, drawing upon the great strengths and unique assets of this wonderful city.

In 2015, IU Bloomington established the School of Art + Design to provide a state-of-the-art education in art and design to students seeking careers in a radically new 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 constantly changing.

Then, in late 2015, given the success of the Center for Art + Design, and mindful of the workforce needs of Cummins and other Columbus area companies, the Community Education Coalition asked IU to consider establishing a master’s degree program in architecture to involve Columbus.

IU rapidly developed a proposal for such a program, and it was approved by the IU Board of Trustees in June of 2016 and by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education in March of 2017. With the addition of this new program, the school was renamed the School of Art, Architecture + Design later in 2017.

Planning for the program has since been energetically underway, and the first students will enter the program this fall. Students will have the unrivalled opportunity to study and visit the exemplary buildings, landscapes, design, and art of one of the nation’s great cities for modern architecture—a city ranked the sixth most architecturally significant city in America, only behind Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

The program will help meet the considerable national and local need for professional architects and designers. Here in Indiana alone, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the employment of architects is projected to grow by 15 percent over the next decade—a rate of growth that is considerably higher than the national average.1

The Republic Building

We are gathered this evening in one of the exceptional works of modern architecture about which I have spoken —the historic Republic Building. Completed in 1971, the building was, of course, for many years, the home of Columbus’s newspaper. It is one of seven Columbus buildings to have been named as a National Historic Landmark. It is also one of the best examples of the work of the late Myron Goldsmith, a highly respected architect, architectural theorist, writer, and educator.

The construction of this wonderful building was part of a master plan for Columbus conceived in the 1960s, in part by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, where Goldsmith was a general partner.

I am very pleased that we have two representatives of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill with us tonight, and I will ask them to stand for our recognition. With us are Brian Lee, who is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a design partner at the firm, and Eric Keune, who is design director in Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s Chicago office. Would you join me in welcoming them?

One of their colleagues, Bill Baker, a structural engineer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, called this building “a seminal work, whose clarity of form is elegant, economic, and appropriate to its use and civic function.”2

Last year, as many of you know, the building was purchased by Southeastern Indiana Medical Holdings, an affiliate company of Columbus Regional Health.

So, it is with great pleasure that I announce this evening, that last Friday, the Indiana University Foundation completed the purchase of this building, and that it will be the new home of IU’s Master of Architecture Program!

With the acquisition and re-purposing of the Republic Building, IU and its School of Art, Architecture + Design, will be using in the most appropriate possible way, a great and elegant building that itself exemplifies excellence in design, to establish what will be a superb laboratory in the heart of Columbus. It will enable the school’s students to acquire the knowledge and skills they will need to become civic-minded, innovative, and imaginative architects and designers.

The legacy of J. Irwin Miller

The development of Columbus as one of the world’s great centers of architecture, was, of course, originally due in large measure to the vision, genius, and courage of one man—former Cummins Chairman and CEO, J. Irwin Miller, and to the enduring and continuing generosity of the Cummins company through the Cummins Foundation, which Miller founded.

It was the Cummins Foundation that paid the architectural fees for world-class architects for so many of the great buildings of Columbus, having given around $25 million for this purpose since 1954. The magnificent architecture here reflects the tremendous impact that deep generosity and prescience can have on a city.

The sheer boldness and stunning intellectual self-confidence that Miller demonstrated in doing all of this, is taken in the context of the conservative Midwest of the 1950s, and taken in what was then a climate of cautious architectural traditionalism, simply breathtaking.

Miller believed that great architecture can have a salutary and uplifting effect on the lives of citizens. It gives them a sense of transcendent beauty and harmony that is inspiring and elevating. Miller and his family lived much of their life in Saarinen’s (not to mention Kiley and Girard’s) sublime Miller House—regarded as one of the most influential examples of modern residential architecture in the world.

And I must pay tribute to Will Miller, Irwin Miller’s son, who from the outset, has been among the strongest supporters of IU’s efforts to build a presence in the study of architecture and design in Columbus.

Community partnership and collaboration

But Will was not alone, and the announcement we make today and the expansion of IU’s presence in the city, would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of numerous Columbus community leaders to whom Indiana University is deeply grateful. And let me specifically thank Mayor Jim Lienhoop, Rick Johnson, Dick Johnson’s son, and John Burnett.

We greatly look forward to continuing to work together in a true spirit of collaboration with the people of Columbus as IU’s Architecture Program launches in this building and becomes an important part of the rich, cultural fabric of this city. And as this program grows here, it will continue to remind us as Frank Gehry has said, “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”3

Special announcements

As you have heard this evening, the development of Columbus as one of the world’s great centers of architecture was due in large measure to the vision, genius, and courage of one man—former Cummins Chairman and CEO J. Irwin Miller.

It is fitting therefore, that in recognition of this, and in recognition of the generosity of the people and City of Columbus through the Community Education Coalition that has helped make possible IU’s acquisition of the Republic Building to house its new architecture program, the Trustees of Indiana University have approved, on my recommendation, that the program be formally named the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program.

I now invite Provost Robel, Dean Faimon, Mayor Leinhoop, Rick Johnson, John Burnett and Vice President Morrison to join me in unveiling a sign that will soon be placed outside the Republic Building.

As a way of celebrating all that we have announced this evening, and in order to demonstrate our strong support for the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program as it launches in its new home here in The Republic building, my wife, Laurie, and I would like to make one additional announcement. Would you join me in welcoming my wife, Laurie Burns McRobbie, Indiana University’s First Lady, to the podium?

[Laurie McRobbie:]

Thank you, Michael. First, let me say how delighted I am that my sister, Tamara Burns, who is a distinguished architect and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, is here tonight with her partner in the Ann Arbor firm Hopkins Burns. Gene Hopkins is also a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a past President of the American Institute of Architects. Their firm is a nationally recognized leader in historic preservation architecture and they have restored hundreds of structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Would you join me in welcoming them?

Like all of us here tonight, Michael and I love architecture, not only as one of the great human creative arts, but for the transformative effect that outstanding architecture can have on how individuals interact with ideas and with each other. We also appreciate its profound effect on the character of institutions and their surrounding communities.

We take every opportunity we can when travelling to visit and view great buildings and structures. It has been a tremendous joy for both of us to see all that has been accomplished with the new and renovated buildings on all the campuses of Indiana University over the last 10 years, and the impact they are having on students and faculty. And we have also enormously enjoyed each and every opportunity we have had to visit Columbus and explore and learn more about the city’s great treasures of modern architecture.

We share Dean Faimon’s excitement and anticipation as the first cohort enters the program, and I am so pleased that so many members of the program’s inaugural class are here tonight.

As Michael said, we want to express our strong support for the new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program at IU, and for IU’s new School of Art, Architecture + Design. So, we are delighted to announce this evening that we have made a bequest of half a million dollars to endow a professorship in Modern Architecture in the School of Art, Architecture + Design. And we are particularly pleased that this will be the first endowed professorship in the school—the first, we hope, of many more.

This joins the two professorships that we previously endowed in 2016 in the new School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, and the new School of Global and International Studies. By making these gifts we want to show our personal support in the strongest way that we can for all three of these new schools and for the vital importance of their missions, not just for Indiana University, but for the state and nation.


Thank you, Laurie.

I want to thank all of you for being here to join us in celebrating this important day for Indiana University, for The School of Art, Architecture, + Design, for The J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program, and for the city of Columbus.

I hope to see you here later in the summer when we celebrate the program’s official launch, when we dedicate the refurbished Republic building as the program’s new home, and on many other future occasions. Good evening.

Source Notes

1. Indiana Department of Workforce Development, “Employment Outlook Projections,” Web, Accessed April 27, 2018, URL: http://www.hoosierdata.in.gov/FD/overview.aspx.
2. “SOM’s The Republic Named National Landmark,” October 30, 2012, Web, Accessed April 25, 2018, URL: https://www.som.com/news/soms_the_republic_named_national_landmark
3. Frank Gehry in Kim Johnson Gross, ‎Jeff Stone, ‎Julie V. Iovine (eds.) Home, (A.A. Knopf, 1993), 43.