IUPUI Honors Michael A. and Laurie Burns McRobbie

A Lasting and Immeasurable Legacy of Love

June 28, 2021
Basile Auditorium in Eskenazi Hall
Indianapolis, Indiana

Love at First Sight

When President McRobbie applied to be the university's first Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer 24 years ago, I had the good fortune to serve on the search committee.

When we saw Michael's CV, we fell in love at first sight. That promise on paper became reality once Michael arrived at Indiana University.

Over the past 24 years—fourteen of them as the university's president—he has always kept his eyes on the future, prioritizing what would be best for IU students, faculty, and staff now and for generations to come.

Of course, I'm not paying these compliments because he appointed me as chancellor … twice.

Fourteen Years of Achievements: The President

I am saying them because their proof surrounds us in the students graduated, degree programs established, research productivity and reputation enhanced, international partnerships established and strengthened, funds raised, buildings renovated and constructed, and so much else across the entire university.

Since 2007, IU's student body has set new records for diversity with IUPUI's undergraduate students of color increasing from 16 percent to more than 30 percent. In addition, under his leadership, ten schools have been established across the university. Here at IUPUI we formed the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, the School of Education at IUPUI, the School of Health & Human Sciences, and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the world's first and still only school of philanthropy. We also named the Robert H. McKinney School of Law during President McRobbie's tenure.

These schools and many others have contributed to the university's position as a research powerhouse. Since 2007, IUPUI's research portfolio, including the IU School of Medicine, has grown from just under $300 million to well over $600 million. President McRobbie's vision led to the creation of the Grand Challenges program, the largest and most ambitious investment in any research program in IU's 200-year history.

All of this progress takes space, and during President McRobbie's tenure the university as a whole has constructed or renovated more than 200 major facilities across all campuses with a total value approaching $2.75 billion dollars. Several of those include the construction of the Science, Engineering, and Laboratory Building, Innovation Hall, and University Hall, of which I am particularly fond since my office is there.

Since 2007, we have also seen the massive renovation of the Natatorium at IUPUI, which recently hosted the Olympic Diving Trials. We also converted University Tower Hotel to a residence hall, constructed North Residence Hall, and this afternoon, we will be celebrating the renovation of the Ball Residence Hall, which is situated just south of the beautifully restored Ball Garden.

With great support from the city, we saw the transformation of Michigan and New York streets into two-way thoroughfares, and with Michael as the project's champion, the miles of wires that criss-crossed the sky over West Street moved below ground. Many of these positive changes have been accomplished with generous support from great friends of the university, some of whom I am delighted to see here today and to welcome in our virtual audience.

Thanks to the president's vision, the university launched the For All: Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in IU's history, and one of the largest ever by a public university, raising nearly $3.9 billion dollars.

Fourteen Years of Achievement: The First Lady

Every step of the way during his presidency, Laurie has walked side by side and hand in hand with Michael.

She is truly an ambassador for Indiana University, taking with her around the world a combination of great diplomacy, hospitality, midwestern modesty, and charm. In fact, some—not me but some—might argue that 90 percent of the charm of the McRobbies comes from Laurie.

During President McRobbie's tenure in office, Laurie has pursued a parallel and complementary set of priorities. Drawing on her expertise in technology, she has promoted and advanced scientific and mathematical literacy, especially among underrepresented groups. She also played a crucial role in establishing the IU Center of Excellence for Women and Technology.

Inspired by research on women's philanthropic power, Laurie founded Women's Philanthropy at Indiana University in 2010 and established the Women's Philanthropy Leadership Council, which serves as the governing council of Women's Philanthropy at IU.

I am also proud to say that Laurie is an IUPUI Jaguar, having earned her master's degree from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy just a few years ago.

Some people's influence and legacy touch tens of thousands of lives, changing them for the better. Michael and Laurie McRobbie are two such people.

IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar

Announcing the McRobbie Emerging Artist Series

For both Michael and Laurie, fine art is part of their daily lives. Regardless of their destinations around the world, they always make time to visit local art museums to explore and appreciate the creative processes arising in different cultures.

Right here at home, the president has spearheaded the assessment, preservation, restoration, and curation of the university's extensive art collection. Laurie has served on the Indiana Arts Commission, which works to create equitable access to the arts for all Indiana residents. In a moment we will hear from IAC Executive Director Lewis Ricci.

To recognize and honor all that Michael and Laurie have achieved, to remember and celebrate them on our campus, and with their great love and support of fine art in mind, our campus is proud to announce the establishment of the Michael A. and Laurie Burns McRobbie Emerging Artist Series.

This series will support national and international emerging artists from diverse backgrounds through a variety of public lectures, residencies, and exhibitions at the Herron School of Art and Design. It will also stand as a lasting legacy marking Michael and Laurie's accomplishments on behalf of Indiana University and in support of Hoosiers across the state.

A Legacy of Love

In making this announcement and reflecting on all that Michael and Laurie have achieved over the past fourteen years together, I am reminded that people make a difference wherever they go and whatever they do.

But some people's influence and legacy touch tens of thousands of lives, changing them for the better. Michael and Laurie McRobbie are two such people.

One day, years from now, history books will tell the story of the McRobbie era at Indiana University, and we will see their name next to greats like Wells, Bryan, and others.

Theirs will be a story about progress, vision, and dogged determination to do what is best for this institution that we all love.

But their story has another important theme.

As much as Michael and Laurie love Indiana University, they love each other more. We can see that and feel it when they are together. Their love permeates all that they do, amplifying the positive changes they have made.

Their lasting and immeasurable legacy—and it is a legacy of love—will live long into the future just as our own thanks are both infinite and eternal.

Michael and Laurie, thank you very much.

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