Indiana University 200th Anniversary Lunch

Presidents Hall

Monday, January 20, 2020

"Mega Jeff" is on display as part of IU's Bicentennial.  Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University


Good afternoon. Today is the Bicentennial of the creation of Indiana University. It is our Founders' Day.

For it was exactly 200 years ago today, that Indiana Governor Jonathan Jennings signed into law the bill establishing the Indiana Seminary, which, a few years later, was renamed Indiana University.

Two centuries later, Indiana University is engaged in a daylong celebration of its storied past and the promise of its future.

The celebration of IU's Bicentennial has been underway for some time, and this afternoon, we celebrate the many faculty, staff, and students whose dedicated efforts have helped make our Bicentennial celebration such a resounding success.

This afternoon, we will highlight three Bicentennial projects: The Bicentennial Medal, a special award commissioned for the Bicentennial, the allegorical paintings of the university's motto, Lux et Veritas, which have been installed here in Presidents Hall, and which we will unveil today, that were also commissioned for this occasion, and the recreation of the skeleton of the giant sloth that once roamed Indiana, Megalonyx jeffersonii, affectionately known as "Mega Jeff," which also makes its debut here in Franklin Hall today. This grant project has attracted widespread media attention and serves as a wonderful example of the innovative ways that faculty, staff, and students are using the Bicentennial in their teaching and research.


Over the course of the university's first two centuries, its history has been shaped by outstanding faculty, students, and staff—as well as loyal alumni and friends, and community neighbors to our campuses across the state of Indiana—who helped to transform it from a small seminary into one of the world’s leading public research universities.

The stories of Indiana University are the stories of its people—the students, faculty, and staff who have helped to build and sustain the university. For 200 years, the faculty and staff members of this great university have not only been responsible for the day-to-day operations without which the university could not function, they have also helped to build at Indiana University a closely-knit university community with a tradition of mutual respect and commitment. These traditions began with IU's first faculty member from 1825, Professor Baynard Rush Hall; our first known service staff member from 1868, Janitor Robert Gamble, and our first known professional staff member from 1885, Registrar William Spangler. These are the people who, in the words of IU’s 10th president, William Lowe Bryan, the university’s longest serving president and its president at its Centennial a hundred years ago, “see our university as it is, with all its wrinkles and scars, and who therefore also know it at its best—its resolute integrity, its un-worded oath of allegiance to the whole truth, its century of path-making for the children of the wilderness toward the fullness of civilized life, its passion for a clean and just democracy."1 All of you follow in their footsteps.

And so today, on behalf of the university, I want to express our most sincere thanks to all of you for all you do in service to Indiana University throughout the year, and especially, on this Founders' Day, to thank all of you for all you have done to help the state’s flagship university and one of the nation’s oldest public universities, celebrate this major milestone of its 200th anniversary.  

We are joined today by a number of current and former senior leaders of Indiana University here in Bloomington and our campuses around the state. I extend a warm welcome to all of them.

I am very pleased to be joined today by my wife, Laurie Burns McRobbie, the First Lady of Indiana University. Would you join me in welcoming her?

I am also very pleased that we are joined today by a number of members of the Indiana University Board of Trustees. I will ask them to stand as I introduce them, and I ask that you hold your applause until all are introduced. With us are:

Trustee MaryEllen Bishop, Molly Connor, our student trustee, Trustee Donna Spears, and Trustee Melanie Walker.

Please join me in welcoming our trustees.

As I said earlier, today we will highlight three of the major projects that have been part of our Bicentennial celebration. These are but three of hundreds of projects that could have been selected, and, as such, they are representative of the dedicated efforts of hundreds of faculty, staff, and students who have contributed to IU's Bicentennial celebration.

As many of you are here today, I want to take just a moment to recognize the various ways in which all of you have helped make the celebration of IU's Bicentennial such a success.

And so...

If you are a student who served as a Bicentennial intern or who has been involved in any way with a Bicentennial project, please stand and remain standing. I should note that most of the more than 200 student interns who have worked with the Bicentennial across all IU campuses have graduated since the program began in 2016.

If you were the author, editor, or assisted in some way with the publication of one of the superb books in the IU Press Well House publication series for IU’s Bicentennial—or if you served as a designer, writer, or video producer for any Bicentennial marketing or public relations materials or media, please stand and remain standing.

If you have served on any of the various committees related to IU’s Bicentennial, please stand and remain standing.

If you were the recipient of a Bicentennial course grant, project grant, or conference or event sponsorship, please stand and remain standing.

If you helped to direct, plan, or staff any Bicentennial event, project, symposium, or conference, either as a faculty or staff member or a volunteer, please stand and remain standing.

The fact that the majority of today’s attendees are standing is a measure of the enormous impact that all of you—and many, many others on our campuses across the state—have had during IU’s Bicentennial Year. Please give yourselves and your colleagues a well-deserved and enthusiastic round of applause.

Please be seated.

The Bicentennial Medal

This academic year is IU’s official Bicentennial Year. During it, starting right at its beginning with Governor Holcomb, I have had the great pleasure of presenting the Bicentennial Medal to organizations and individuals who, through their personal, professional, artistic, or philanthropic efforts, have broadened the reach of Indiana University around the state, nation, and world. A Bicentennial Medal is on display this afternoon on each of your tables.

Beautifully designed by Professor Jeeyea Kim of IU's Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, the medal depicts the interconnectedness of Indiana University with the state of Indiana and the nation and world beyond its borders.

The medals were expertly crafted right here in Bloomington by our friends at Indiana Metal Craft. The medals incorporate materials salvaged from bells that once rang out from the tower of the Student Building on the Bloomington campus, so each Bicentennial Medal is a lasting piece of Indiana University history.

I invite you to turn your attention to the screens for a video about the design and crafting of the Bicentennial Medal.

As I said earlier, we have been recognizing the contributions of some of IU’s greatest friends and supporters with the Bicentennial Medal all year long.

Today, on IU’s 200th birthday, it is only fitting that we also recognize the artist who designed the medal and the organization whose artisans expertly crafted it.

And so, I invite Professor Jeeyea Kim, the medal’s designer, and Ronald Davis, president of Indiana Metal Craft, who represents all of the company’s skilled artisans, to join me at the podium.

Professor Kim, on behalf of Indiana University, I want to express our most sincere thanks to you for your superb work in designing the Indiana University Bicentennial Medal—and to you, Mr. Davis, and your colleagues at Indiana Metal Craft, our thanks for your excellent work in crafting the medals. It is my great pleasure to present each of you with the Bicentennial Medal in recognition of this outstanding work.


Please join me once again in congratulating Professor Kim and Mr. Davis with a round of applause.

The Lux et Veritas paintings

In 2018, I had the pleasure of announcing that the IU Office of the Bicentennial had commissioned two allegorical paintings to be installed here in Presidents Hall interpreting the university’s Latin motto, Lux et Veritas, which translates as "light and truth." IU's Latin motto is nearly as old as the university itself. Its first known use was in 1841 on a hand-drawn university seal that contained an image of an open book bordered by the words “Lux et Veritas,” with rays emanating from the book.

But, despite Indiana University’s superb campus art collection and the various collections of our outstanding museums, the university has never had a work of art that interprets the motto. Until now.

Today, I am very pleased to help unveil two paintings, one entitled "Lux," and the other entitled "Veritas," which now hang on the north wall of this grand hall, where they join and complement the gallery of portraits of the 17 former presidents of Indiana University.

As many of you know, these two paintings have been created over the last two years by Professor Emerita Bonnie Sklarski of IU’s Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, working in a studio on the 45/46 bypass in the sanctuary of the former church that was also the previous home of the IU Marching Hundred.

Professor Sklarski joined the IU faculty in 1970. She received IU’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1998.

Professor Sklarski has a passion for observational painting, and has done "plein air" painting around the world. Her work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions around the country, including in prestigious galleries in New York and Philadelphia.

Many of you are familiar with the splendid portrait she created of the late Nobel Laureate, IU Professor Elinor Ostrom, which hangs in the Indiana Memorial Union as part of the Women of Indiana University Portrait Collection.

And now, I invite Professor Sklarski to join me in the back of the room for the unveiling of the Lux et Veritas paintings, after which I invite you to turn your attention to the monitors for a video presentation featuring Professor Sklarski and her process.

I had the pleasure of visiting Professor Sklarski’s studio while she was creating these works over the last two years, so I had seen these superb paintings prior to today as they developed—but it is wonderful to see them here in their permanent home. I am struck with how they give a sense of completeness to this room and are a most fitting artistic tribute to Indiana University's Bicentennial.

And now, I invite Professor Bonnie Sklarski to the podium to say a few words about her magnificent paintings.

Thank you very much, Professor Sklarski, for those inspiring remarks. I invite you to remain here at the podium for just a moment.

As I said earlier, as part of IU’s Bicentennial Year, we have been awarding the Bicentennial Medal to friends and supporters who have helped broaden Indiana University's reach.

And so today, on the 200th anniversary of Indiana University’s commitment to diffusing the light of education, to appreciating and defending the truths we possess, and to discovering new truths in all fields, it is my great pleasure to present you with the Bicentennial Medal in recognition of your distinguished career at IU and your creation of the magnificent Lux et Veritas paintings.


I want to take this opportunity to express our most sincere thanks on behalf of Indiana University to the members of the Well House Society, whose annual support for IU has helped to underwrite both the Bicentennial Medal and the Lux et Veritas paintings.

I also want to want to thank the members of the Office of the Bicentennial's student video production team, Spencer Bowman and Samuel Oates, who created the videos you have seen today as well as many other Bicentennial videos.

And I am very pleased to let all of you know that as you leave today’s event, you will receive a set of commemorative notecards that depict Professor Sklarski’s splendid paintings. These will be our gifts to all of you as mementos of today’s celebration. We hope that you will use them to spread the “light and truth” far and wide through your correspondence.

Megalonyx Jeffersoni 

And finally this afternoon, I am very pleased to highlight an IU Bicentennial project that has already received an enormous amount of very positive local and national attention—the recreation of the skeleton of the giant ground sloth that was once widespread in Indiana, Megalonyx jeffersonii, known as "Mega Jeff."

A skeleton of the giant sloth was a centerpiece of Indiana University’s early teaching and research collections. Housed in Science Hall on the original Seminary Square campus, the skeleton was thought to be the most complete skeleton of the species ever recovered. It survived a devastating fire in 1883 that destroyed much of IU's natural history collection, and it was moved to the Dunn’s Woods campus, where it was on display for many years in Owen Hall.

Unfortunately, shortly after World War II, much of the skeleton was disposed of along with a number of other specimens in what was called “the Great Housecleaning.” Not the finest chapter in IU's history.

But in conjunction with IU’s Bicentennial, a team from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey has undertaken a project to digitally fabricate a complete skeleton of Megalonyx jeffersonii, based on 3D-scans of five surviving bones from the original specimen as well as scans of bones from other universities and museums.

But, before we meet Mega Jeff, I am very pleased that the leaders of this team are here today to tell us more about this innovative project.

With us today from the Indiana Geological and Water Survey are Polly Sturgeon, education and outreach coordinator, and Gary Motz, assistant director for information services.

Please join me in welcoming Ms. Sturgeon and Mr. Motz to the podium.

Thank you very much, Gary and Polly. Please remain here for just a moment.

In recognition of this outstanding work to discover and commemorate IU's history in conjunction with Bicentennial, I would like to present you and your colleagues at the Indiana Geological and Water Survey with the Bicentennial Medal.


Now, all of us are very excited to meet Mega Jeff, who will make his return to Bloomington just down the hall in the Commons of Franklin Hall.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I thank all of you for joining us for this memorable occasion. I invite you to adjourn to the Commons for coffee and dessert, where Mega Jeff will make the first stop on his statewide tour!

I hope to see all of you this afternoon at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, as we hear remarks from our guest, acclaimed actor Viola Davis, who will receive an honorary IU doctoral degree as part of today’s commemoration of our Bicentennial and of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Thank you and "Happy Birthday, IU!"

Source Notes

1. William Lowe Bryan, “Patriotism for Indiana,” as reprinted in The Spirit of Indiana, (Indiana University Bookstore, 1917), 11.