Founders’ Day Bicentennial Dinner

Wright Quad

Monday, January 20, 2020

IU President McRobbie speaks in front of the new Wright Quad murals commissioned for the university's Bicentennial.    Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University


Good evening, and thank you for joining us for this dinner to commemorate Indiana University’s Bicentennial Founders’ Day—the 200th anniversary of Indiana University’s founding on January 20, 1820—and to commemorate our observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

In his essay on “The Purpose of Education,” Dr. King wrote that “Education must train one for quick, resolute, and effective thinking. …(It) must,” he continued, “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.”1

For 200 years, Indiana University 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 the state have earned an education that has allowed them to develop the skills of argument and reasoning, of analysis and discernment, of leadership and cooperation. And in earning this kind of education, they have been part of a university community dedicated to the principle that our diversity makes us stronger; a community united by tolerance, respect, and common bonds; and a community that believes in the intrinsic dignity and worth of every person.

Through the dedicated efforts of the members of this community over the course of its two centuries, Indiana University has grown to become one of the world’s leading research universities, fueling an engine of opportunity and prosperity for Indiana and the nation, leading the state’s international engagement, sparking discoveries that have helped solve some of the state’s and the world’s most pressing problems, and illuminating the boundless possibilities of human imagination and creativity.

Tonight, we are joined by many of the alumni, friends, and current and former administrators, faculty, and staff of Indiana University—from across the state and beyond—who in the university’s most recent years—have supported and sustained the university through their dedicated service and their generous philanthropic support.

We are delighted that you are with us tonight to help celebrate this major milestone in the life of our institution.

As we gather this evening in Wright Quad, the magnificent murals above us remind us of the great figures in the history of our university, of the iconic buildings of this campus, of the social change that has occurred here, and, above all, of the university’s twin fundamental missions—the education it provides to millions and the world-changing research it pursues. Later this evening, as part of tonight’s celebration, we will hear from the artist who was commissioned by the Office of the IU Bicentennial to create the newest addition to the Wright murals, which depicts the history of IU Bloomington from 1998 to the present.

We will have a formal program following dinner.

Please enjoy the evening.

Welcome and Acknowledgements 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome again to this historic evening in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of Indiana University and our observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Tonight’s dinner is the final event in a daylong celebration, during which we have:

  • dedicated Big Red 200, one of the fastest university-owned artificial intelligence-capable supercomputers in the nation,
  • celebrated the inaugural ringing of the bells of the Arthur R. Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon,
  • unveiled the magnificent allegorical paintings that depict the university’s Latin motto, Lux et Veritas, “light and truth,” which were created by Professor Emerita Bonnie Sklarski, and which now hang in Presidents Hall,
  • debuted the digital recreation by the Indiana Geological and Water Survey of the skeleton of Megalonyx jeffersonii, the giant sloth that roamed Indiana during the ice age,
  • awarded an honorary IU doctor of fine arts degree to acclaimed actor, producer, activist, and philanthropist, Viola Davis, who earlier today delivered an inspirational set of remarks in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Let me take a moment to introduce my wife, Laurie Burns McRobbie, the First Lady of Indiana University. We are also joined tonight by former IU First Lady, Pat Ryan. Would you join me in greeting our First Ladies? 

And I am also very pleased that we are joined this evening 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:

  • Molly Connor of Indianapolis, our student trustee,
  • Trustee Donna Spears, of Richmond,
  • Trustee Melanie Walker, of Bloomington.

Please join me in welcoming our trustees.

I am also very pleased to welcome a number of former trustees of Indiana University. I will ask them to stand as I introduce them, and I ask that you hold your applause until all are standing. With us tonight are:

  • Philip Eskew, Jr.
  • J T. Forbes, who now serves as CEO of the IU Alumni Association,
  • P.A. Mack,
  • Cindy Stone,
  • Sue Talbot.

Please join me in greeting our former trustees.

The Bicentennial of Indiana University

In an address nearly a century ago, Indiana University’s 10th and longest-serving president, William Lowe Bryan, who served during the celebration of IU’s centennial 100 years ago, recounted, in brief, the university’s early history. “It is the conquerors of the Western wilderness,” Bryan said, “who have made our university, who have sent a share of their sons and daughters to and through our university to assume their share of leadership throughout our country and throughout the world. As all around the world tonight you sing ‘Our Indiana,’’ he continued, ‘let it mean not only pride, but consecration—that she may outgrow every evil and every weakness and may become, in truth, a center of light and truth for all the world.”2

A century later, we proudly celebrate the 200th anniversary of Indiana’s namesake flagship university, which, since the time President Bryan spoke those eloquent words, has grown further still in strength, distinction, and capacity for service, and which remains a center of light and truth for all the world.

Extensive commemorations and celebrations of Indiana University’s Bicentennial have been underway for some time. We have hoisted Bicentennial banners here in Bloomington and on our campuses around the state. We have awarded Bicentennial Medals to dedicated friends and supporters of the university around the world—including, earlier today to Professor Emerita Bonnie Sklarski, who, as I mentioned earlier, created the Lux et Veritas paintings, to Professor Jeeyea Kim, the Bicentennial Medal’s designer, to Indiana Metal Craft, the local company whose skilled artisans crafted the medal, and to the Indiana Geological and Water Survey for their re-creation of the “Mega Jeff” skeleton. And we are sending the “Big Red Bus,” IU’s Bicentennial travelling exhibit, to every one of Indiana’s 92 counties. There are many more exciting and memorable events to come in the months ahead.

In addition, to ensure that Indiana University continues to thrive and prosper in its third century, we are conducting the university-wide Bicentennial Campaign, which has been enormously successful, having now raised well in excess of $3 billion including for more than 5,300 endowed scholarships and fellowships and more than 220 endowed professorships, and to which many people in this room have generously given, for which we are immensely grateful.

The Wright Murals

Here in the Wright Quad Dining Hall, 200 years of the history of Indiana University gaze down upon us from the magnificent murals above us. In them are portrayed many of the great figures of the university from over the centuries, its iconic buildings, symbols of social change, and representations of its twin fundamental missions—the education it provides to millions and the world-changing research it pursues.

These splendid murals serve as stately and imposing reminders of Indiana University’s growth over nearly two centuries into one of the great public research universities of the world, one that offers the promise of a better life for all who enter its gates.

They are also representative of Indiana University’s longstanding and deep commitment to art as a public trust—a commitment that extends beyond the walls of our museums to the indoor and outdoor public spaces of our campuses around the state, where works of art become integrated into the lives of members of the university community. In these public spaces, sculptures, paintings, and other works of art not only beautify our campuses, but they also remind us of our shared history and inspire reflection.

The first six of the Wright murals were painted by Garo Antreasian, an artist and visiting instructor at the university. Mr. Antreasian and IU student assistants used large scaffolds to paint on the canvas panels that were mounted on the walls. The Antreasian panels depict the history of the campus from 1820 to 1957. With us tonight are members of the Faris family, one of Monroe County’s founding families, whose history in Bloomington dates back to 1820. They are direct ties to our earliest history, and we are very pleased to have them with us this evening. The seventh Wright Mural panel, depicting the campus’s history from 1958 to 1998, was painted by IU alumnus Mark Flickinger.

Some of you were with us at an event in this very space in 2017, when I had the great pleasure of announcing that, in conjunction with the Bicentennial, a new mural would be commissioned that would depict major events and figures in the history of the campus from 1999 to the present.

As you see tonight, this splendid new mural is now complete.

The murals have been created by Caleb Weintraub, associate professor of painting in IU’s Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design.

Professor Weintraub has exhibited his work around the world, and is known for his innovative techniques. In the creation of the new Wright mural, he made extensive use of technology, employing a number of computer programs to conceive and prepare source materials for the painting.

The Campus History Committee, led by IU Bloomington campus historian, Professor Andrea Walton, created a list of dozens of subjects and individuals for potential inclusion in the mural. Over the course of more than a year, this list was further refined, with input from others.

The first condition of Indiana University’s greatness continues to be the collective devotion, wisdom, and invigorating spirit of its faculty. Thus, the mural depicts some of the university’s most distinguished faculty of the last two decades: Susan Gubar, Douglas Hofstadter, Richard Shiffrin, David Dilcher, and Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom. It also reflects IU’s glorious tradition in the arts through its inclusion of such legendary IU artist/educators as Rudy Pozzatti, David Baker, Janos Starker, Violette Verdy, and Camilla Williams. The previous murals also celebrate IU’s strength in the arts. With us tonight is Grammy-winner Sylvia McNair, who is a subject of the Flickinger mural.

IU is home to a long and rich tradition of international engagement, fostered by former presidents Herman Wells and John Ryan, both of whom are represented in the Antreasian and Flickinger murals. Over the last 22 years, IU has firmly cemented its stature as one of the most International universities in the nation, and the new mural reflects this in a montage that represents the university’s global engagement and in its depiction of new and planned facilities that support this engagement.

It depicts IU’s commitment to building a diverse, multicultural community with its inclusion of IU’s first African American president, and the first African American to lead an IU regional campus. And it depicts the passionate commitment of IU students to the pursuit of social justice, equality for all, and to improving the quality of life for members of the IU community and citizens of the state through its depiction of student government leaders and IU Dance Marathon participants, who have raised record amounts in support of Riley Children’s Hospital.

It also recognizes the university’s strength in information technology and its debt to the late Myles Brand, who understood that it was impossible in this era for a great university such as IU not to have first rate IT services, facilities, and infrastructure. President Brand gave me the honor of leading the initial implementation of his vision to make IU a leader in the “uses and applications of information technology—in absolute terms.” And as the mural depicts, we continue to build upon this tradition today with advances in supercomputing and artificial intelligence and new facilities like Luddy Hall to support education and research in these and other emerging areas.

The mural also depicts what some have called a new golden age for IU Athletics with its renderings of new and renovated facilities, championship programs, and some of the most accomplished and decorated individual athletes in all of IU history. And it celebrates one of Indiana University’s great traditions, the Women’s Little 500, which, like the men’s race, raises vital funds for student scholarships. Curt Simic, under whose leadership of the IU Foundation the women’s race was established, is with us tonight. And, as a student, Curt rode in the men’s race for Dodds House of Wright Quad.

I now invite you to turn your attention to the screens for a video that will take us behind the scenes with Professor Weintraub as he was creating this splendid new mural.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to invite to the podium the artist who created this magnificent new work. Please join me in welcoming Professor Caleb Weintraub.

Thank you very much, Professor Weintraub. Please remain here for just a moment.

As I mentioned earlier, throughout our Bicentennial Year, we are awarding the Indiana University 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.

The medal’s design depicts the interconnectedness of Indiana University with the state of Indiana and the nation and world beyond its borders. 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.

Professor Weintraub, in recognition of your outstanding work in designing and creating Indiana University’s newest piece of public art, and one that will, for many years to come, inspire members of the university community to learn about and reflect on the university’s history, I am very pleased to present you with the Bicentennial Medal.


Introduction of Lauren Robel

And now, it is my pleasure to invite to the podium the provost of the Bloomington campus and executive vice president of Indiana University, Lauren Robel.

Please join me in welcoming Provost Robel.

Conclusion and Special Thanks/Introduction of Singing Hoosiers

Thank you, Provost Robel.

And so, we come to the conclusion of this memorable evening and this major milestone in the life of Indiana University.

I want to thank all of those who helped make this evening’s celebration possible as well as all of those who helped facilitate the creation of the new Wright Quad mural, including  

  • the members of the University Events staff,
  • the members of the Campus History Committee,
  • Campus Historian, Professor Andrea Walton,
  • University Historian Professor Jim Capshew,


  • the staff of the IU Office of the Bicentennial, led by Bicentennial Director Kelly Kish.

And I want to thank all of you for joining us this evening to help celebrate this memorable and truly historic day.

With your continued dedicated service and generous support, as Indiana University enters its third century, we will remain steadfastly committed to the outstanding traditions reflected in the murals above us—traditions have been the hallmark of this great university in its first two centuries.

I am very pleased to invite you, as you leave this evening, to take with you an IU cupcake so that your Bicentennial celebration can continue. In addition, Professor Weintraub has generously signed and numbered copies of a limited-edition commemorative poster of the new Wright Mural. These will be available at the exit doors as our gift to you as a memento of this special occasion.

To help us conclude this memorable day, I am very pleased to welcome members of the Singing Hoosiers, the award-winning group whose members have served as IU’s musical ambassadors for more than 70 years. I invite you to stand and join in as the Singing Hoosiers lead us in singing “Happy Birthday to IU,” followed by the alma mater.

Source Notes

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Purpose of Education,” originally printed the Maroon Tiger, the campus literary journal of Morehouse College, January-February 1947, as reprinted in The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume I: Called to Serve, January 1929-June 1951, (University of California Press at Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1992), 124.
  2. William Lowe Bryan, address broadcast on WLW of Cincinnati, May 1, 1929, IU Archives.