Celebration of J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program

The Republic Building
Columbus, Indiana

Monday, November 26, 2018

IU President Michael A. McRobbie speaks at a reception celebrating the IU School of Art, Architecture + Design's new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program and its new home in the Republic Building. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Good evening and welcome to this special evening in celebration of Indiana University’s new J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program which, as of this fall, is housed here in the historic Republic Building thanks, in large part, to the generous support of the people of Columbus, and especially many people in this room.

I am joined by a number of IU leaders this evening, including Lauren Robel, the Provost of the Bloomington campus, and Peg Faimon, the founding dean of IU’s School of Art, Architecture, + Design, both of whom will speak in a few minutes. We want to take the opportunity tonight to express our most grateful thanks to all those in Columbus who have given tireless and unwavering support to IU and to this new program—in some cases, over many years.

I want to begin by introducing my wife, Laurie Burns McRobbie, the first Lady of Indiana University.

Also with us tonight are a number of distinguished representatives of the City of Columbus. I will ask them to wave as I introduce them, and I ask that you hold your applause until all are introduced. With us are: Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop, and his wife, Pam; John Burnett, and his wife, Deborah. John is president and CEO of the Community Education Coalition; Rick Johnson and his wife, Alice. Rick is president and CEO of Johnson Ventures and a member of the IU Foundation Board of Directors; Tony Moravec, and his wife, Rhonda; and Gregg Summerville and his wife, Judy. Gregg is also a member of the IU Foundation Board of Directors.

Please join me in welcoming them.

Architecture education in a city of architectural masterpieces

As many of you have heard me say on other occasions, Indiana University long recognized and appreciated the richness and greatness of the architectural heritage of the city of Columbus, and felt for many years that there was an enormous opportunity to build an academic program based on it.

In June 2009, I met with the late Dick Johnson, Rick Johnson’s father, 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. This agreement grew out of a partnership with the Community Education Coalition of Columbus. For more than seven years, the Center 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 nearly all areas of business and industry. Then, in late 2015, given the success of the Center for Art + Design, given the establishment of the new school, 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.

Many of you were with us earlier this year—in this building—when we made a number of major announcements regarding the program. First, we announced that the IU Foundation had purchased this historic building, the former home of the Republic newspaper and one of seven Columbus buildings to have been named as a National Historic Landmark, and that it would be home to the architecture program.

Second, Mayor Lienhoop announced that the people of Columbus would generously commit $2 million to support the building out of this space though a public/private partnership involving the city’s Redevelopment Commission, the leaders of the Community Education Coalition, and many of you who are here tonight. On behalf of Indiana University, I want to express our most sincere thanks to all of you who helped make the renovation of this building possible with your generous philanthropic contributions. And, more generally, I want to express our thanks to Mayor Lienhoop, John Burnett, Rick Johnson, and the many others of you who are here tonight, for your steadfast support for the establishment of academic programs in design and architecture here in Columbus.

In addition, at the event in this building last spring, we announced that the program would be named the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program in honor of former Cummins Chairman and CEO, J. Irwin Miller, whose vision, genius, and courage were, in large measure, responsible of the development of Columbus as one of the world’s great centers of architecture.

As you will hear from Dean Faimon, the first students entered the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program this fall. They now 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.

The program will help meet the considerable national and local need for professional architects and designers. As you may have heard me say before, in Indiana alone, the employment of architects is projected to grow by 15 percent over the next decade—a growth rate considerably higher than the national average.1


J. Irwin Miller once wrote about the importance of providing an outstanding education to architects. While he was writing about the Yale School of Architecture, his words apply equally, especially in the world today, to Indiana University and to the new program that bears his name.

Universities are concerned, he wrote, “with the conservation and the constant restatement of human values in a society containing so many dehumanizing forces. Architecture is concerned with the kind of visual life we all will lead. It is thus an indispensable component of humane education, and indeed of civilized human existence as well."2

So, all of us at Indiana University are delighted that here, in this great and elegant building, which itself exemplifies excellence in design, we have established—in partnership with the citizens of this great city—a superb laboratory for architecture education right in the heart of Columbus, where students are acquiring the knowledge and skills they will need to become civic-minded, innovative, and imaginative architects and designers.

All of us are deeply grateful for your support, which is helping make all of this possible.

And now, it is my pleasure to introduce the provost of Indiana University Bloomington, Lauren Robel. Please join me in welcoming Provost Robel.

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. J. Irwin Miller, as quoted in Robert A. M. Stern, Jimmy Stamp, Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale, (Yale University Press, 2016), ix.