Farewell to Asian and European Alumni Chapters


Tuesday, April 20, 2021


I am greatly honored to have this opportunity to say farewell to so many of IU’s loyal and engaged alumni from Asia and Europe and to thank you for all that you do for Indiana University.

Through all that you do, you make major contributions to the prosperity and progress of your communities and nations. And through your energy, enthusiasm, and deep loyalty to IU, you greatly enhance the reputation of our great university around the world.

The vital importance of international engagement

It has been my great honor and privilege to serve Indiana University as its president for 14 years—and to have served in senior leadership roles at IU for 24 years—more than a third of my life.

I am particularly proud of all that we have been able to do over this period to renew and rejuvenate Indiana University’s international engagement. This could not have been accomplished without your efforts and support, and I am grateful that we have had the opportunity work together to build and strengthen the global IU community.

Over the course of my presidency, my wife, Laurie, and I have visited around 40 countries and met with many international chapters of the IU Alumni Association—in some cases, to celebrate milestone anniversaries—and in other cases, to help launch new chapters. We have also had the wonderful opportunity to connect with many of you during the major international alumni reunions IU has hosted in Seoul, Korea; Bali, Indonesia; and most recently, in Beijing, China. It has been one of the highlights of the last 14 years to meet with proud and enthusiastic alumni from all over the world.

Renewing and strengthening IU’s international engagement is one of the achievements over the last 14 years of which I am most proud. True international understanding in a world beset with difficult and complex problems is vital to sustaining and supporting peace and prosperity. The role that great research universities like Indiana University can play here—universities that are internationally engaged and are centers of international scholarship—is vital.

Highlights of IU's international engagement over the last 14 years

I am very proud that IU is a national leader in the enrollment of international students, ranking among the top US universities in this respect. Unfortunately, these numbers have been severely curtailed by the COVID pandemic, but we still have an international student body of more than 6,000 students from over 162 countries.

IU’s international students enrich our campuses and the communities we serve. We value them for the diversity in thought and culture they bring, and for the window they provide into their own countries and cultures. In short, they bring the world to IU.

And when our international students, who are following in your footsteps, return to their home countries—they often become leaders in areas such as business, education, and government, as many of you have done— and they also become passionate IU alumni for the rest of their lives.

At IU, we are also committed to providing a global education to all our students. Toward this end, increasing the number of IU students who study abroad has also been a very high priority. I am particularly pleased that these numbers have more than doubled over the last 14 years. About a third of IU Bloomington students now study abroad by the time they graduate. And the year before the pandemic IU ranked fifth in the United States, out of about 1,200 universities, in terms of the number of students who studied abroad.

Of course, the global COVID-19 pandemic has not only had an adverse impact on the enrollment of international students at IU and at all universities in the United States, it has also affected all areas of IU’s international engagement, including study abroad by IU students. But Indiana University is strongly committed to vigorously renewing all of our international engagement efforts to their former levels in the fall semester and the months ahead as we draw ever closer to the time when we can say that the pandemic has truly been defeated.

Another major way that IU has enhanced its effort to provide a global education is through the establishment in 2012 of the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. The school brought together a number of IU’s longstanding strengths in international studies and language instruction. IU teaches more foreign languages than any other university in the United States. And the school has partnerships with institutions around the world, including in many of your countries.

And, of course, IU has established Global Gateway Offices in Beijing, Bangkok, Berlin, New Delhi, and Mexico City. These offices serve at IU’s front doors in these parts of the world. They help us serve our international students, our many international alumni, and our American students studying abroad more effectively—and they help foster IU’s relationships with many of our more than 200 partner universities. These offices are symbolic of IU’s desire to work in a spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation in these important regions.

Finally, IU’s commitment to global engagement will be symbolized by the opening next year of the magnificent new Ferguson International Building on the Bloomington campus. Construction of this building has begun, and for those interested, you can follow construction through a webcam on the Internet at https://cpf.iu.edu/capital-projects/construction-cameras.html.

Growth of international philanthropy

I am also very pleased that the last 14 years have seen tremendous growth in international philanthropy.

I know that many of you made generous contributions to the IU Bicentennial Campaign that helped to make it such a tremendous success. We are truly grateful for your support. The campaign, which concluded in September of 2020, was conducted in conjunction with IU’s 200th anniversary. It far surpassed its original goal and raised nearly $4 billion. These funds support new buildings and facilities, and new scholarships and professorships. They will help prepare IU students to become future global leaders, and advance research and scholarship that will help improve the world.

We have seen a number of major gifts from international alumni and foundations that support this goal. These include a generous grant in 2012 from the Korea Foundation and three Korean IU alumni to establish IU’s first endowed chair in Korean studies in the IU’s Hamilton Lugar School. And just last month, we announced that IU has received an additional generous gift of $1.65 million from the Korea Foundation and IU alumni Young-Jin Kim and William Joo to endow a professorship in Korean studies in the Hamilton Lugar School. These gifts are making IU into one of the major centers in the U.S. for Korean studies, something of which we are very proud.

And in 2018, we were very pleased to announce that an alumnus of IU’s Kelley School of Business, Ming Mei, who is a co-founder and the CEO of GLP, a global investment manager and real estate logistics provider, had generously donated $1.5 million to endow a tenured chair in Chinese economics and trade in the Hamilton Lugar School as well as a tenured chair in logistics in the Kelley School. We are very grateful to him for these generous gifts.

And let me thank all of you for all you did and all many of your chapters did to raise funds to support the IU Bicentennial Campaign. Your efforts, in the Philippines, Indonesia, and many other countries are greatly appreciated and valued.

Honoring Patrick O'Meara 

Let me finally acknowledge the enormous contributions to IU’s international engagement of the former Vice President for International Affairs, Patrick O’Meara, who passed away a few weeks ago. He was a friend to many who are on this call. For many decades, Patrick was truly IU’s ambassador to the world, representing the university with extraordinary grace, intelligence, professionalism, collegiality and distinction, and helping to elevate IU's global reputation to remarkable new heights. He is deeply missed by the whole IU community around the world.


As a great research university, Indiana University believes in embracing and understanding the world in all its diversity, and not shunning it or closing it off.

Your continued engagement with and support for IU helps make that possible.

So, thank you again most sincerely for all you do in so many areas to support your alma mater and make it a truly international university, one that is vigorously engaged around the globe.

Thank you.