Presentation of President’s Medal to Jon Vickers

Henke Hall of Champions

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie, left, presents the President’s Medal of Excellence to IU Cinema Director Jon Vickers before a screening of “Cinema Paradiso” in Memorial Stadium at IU Bloomington on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. The film screening was Vickers’ final public event as IU Cinema’s founding director.   Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Good evening and welcome to this special screening of Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 masterpiece, Cinema Paradiso.

Tonight’s screening is brought to us, of course, by one of the cultural gems of the Bloomington campus, the IU Cinema. While the cinema’s physical space has not been open for events and film screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the cinema has continued to offer a wide variety of engaging film experiences through virtual screenings and conversations with filmmakers. This evening, we are very pleased to be able to gather in person—with appropriate safety precautions—to see a film that celebrates the power of cinema as a communal experience.

This evening is also special because this is the final public event for Jon Vickers, who is stepping down from his role as founding director of IU Cinema—a role in which he has performed with enormous distinction.

Jon’s background made him eminently well-qualified to serve as the cinema’s first director. In the 1990s, he and his wife, Jennifer, purchased and renovated a building in Three Oaks, Michigan, which they operated as an independent arthouse cinema. He subsequently served as managing director of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame.

As the founding director of IU Cinema, Jon and his talented staff quickly built the cinema into one of the finest university cinemas in the nation, not just in the view of those of us who frequent it regularly, but also in the opinion of such legends of the cinema as Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Werner Herzog, and many others.

Jon has done an outstanding job of bringing highly innovative and very diverse programming to the Cinema, including events like the Orphans Midwest Film Festival, which brought attention to neglected cinematic artifacts and was the first major event of its kind to be held in the Midwestern United States. IU Cinema is also one of the few places audiences can view silent films with live, original musical accompaniment. The Jon Vickers Scoring Award, endowed by former IU Trustee P.A. Mack, ensures that this tradition will continue.

Jon and his staff have also done a superb job of making IU Cinema a warm, welcoming and hugely popular place where members of the university and surrounding community can engage more deeply with film. In nearly 10 years of operation, the cinema has

  • presented nearly 3,000 public events,
  • with more than 312,000 tickets issued.
  • nearly 2,300 unique film titles screened.

More than half of the cinema’s programming has been completely free of charge. The market value of the free tickets issued exceeds $1.6 million.

In the cinema’s first year in particular, the demand for tickets was much higher than anticipated. Jon and his staff expected that there would be in the neighborhood of 18,000—19,000 ticket requests that first year. There were more than double that many requests—at around 45,000—with many events selling out in the cinema’s inaugural year.

Nearly half of the cinema’s programming has involved partnerships, including creative collaborations with IU schools, departments, and centers that enhance the university’s academic mission.

The cinema has hosted 341 visiting filmmakers and scholars, many of whom have appeared as part of the Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Series.

Between the international filmmakers who have visited the cinema and the films from around the world that have been screened, 113 countries have been represented, which has helped audience forge bonds through shared experiences that transcend cultures.

Jon has also been actively involved in efforts to bring more film production to the state of Indiana, lobbying the state’s elected officials to implement incentives for filmmakers who choose to shoot in Indiana.

Regular patrons of the cinema and all members of the campus and the community who know Jon admire his collegial nature, his dedication to his job, and his passion for sharing cinema with others.

Tonight, I am very pleased to honor Jon for his distinguished service to IU by presenting him with the highest award a president of Indiana University can bestow: the President’s Medal for Excellence.

The medal symbolizes the aspirations and ideals that are the foundation of the search for knowledge. It is patterned after, and reflects the values embedded in, the President's Jewel of Office, which is worn by IU’s President on the university’s most formal occasions.

Jon, would you join me at the podium?

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Trustees of Indiana University, and in recognition of your visionary leadership, and of your passion and dedication that have made IU Cinema the finest university cinema in the nation, I am pleased and privileged to bestow upon you, Jon Vickers, the President’s Medal for Excellence.