The University Record, December 17, 2001

Diversity, growth and innovation mark Bollinger legacy

By Nancy Connell
News and Information Services

“We cannot live what we cannot imagine,” said English Prof. Ralph Williams, paying tribute to Lee C. Bollinger’s ability to set the University’s sights toward great achievement.

The University’s 12th president has “widened, made deeper, ennobled our imagination of what we may be,” added Williams, speaking at a Dec. 10 farewell reception at the William L. Clements Library.

As Bollinger prepares to leave the U-M at the end of the month to assume the presidency of Columbia University, his imprint remains—a legacy built on a commitment to the U-M as a great public institution and a passion to uphold the ideals of diversity.

Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar and former dean of the Law School, will be remembered as the motivating force behind what has become higher education’s most comprehensive defense of affirmative action. He championed the concept that diversity is a positive factor that is essential to a quality education. The challenging admissions cases, one against LS&A and the other against the Law School, are expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court and result in major statements of public policy for years to come.

Saul Green, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, noted, “The role that Lee has played in articulating and communicating the importance of a diverse student body has been unparalleled. It benefits all to be part of a diverse environment.”

Bollinger also will be remembered for his leadership in launching the Life Sciences Initiative and the Life Sciences Institute, undertakings that represent, in his words, the aspiration of the University to be at the height of great work. Launched in 1999, the Initiative spans research, values and educational programs, and represents a campuswide effort to coordinate and expand research and teaching in the life sciences. A new six-story Life Sciences Institute, the cornerstone of the Initiative, will serve as a hub for cross-disciplinary research and teaching. To begin planning, Bollinger traveled the country and talked to the best scientists, noted Jack Dixon, co-director of the Life Sciences Institute. The overall Life Sciences Initiative will include the construction of a $100 million cross-disciplinary laboratory and a new 500,000-square-foot facility for the Medical School.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) three-week residency in March reflected Bollinger’s deep commitment to the fine arts. RSC performed three cycles of a tetralogy of Shakespeare’s history plays, new productions staged exclusively in the United States at Ann Arbor, in the company’s first partnership with an American public university. His efforts to promote the arts and humanities also led to plans for the Walgreen Drama Center and the Arthur Miller Theater.

Other milestones in Bollinger’s presidency were reports and recommendations resulting from deliberations of the Commission on the

Undergraduate Experience, which examined how undergraduates are engaged at the U-M, and the President’s Information Revolution Commission.

The Commission on the Undergraduate Experience recommended fundamental changes in the academic culture of the University, including the development of new facilities and programs such as the Global Intercultural Experiences for Undergraduates Program. It also recognized prior successes, including new ways of rewarding and recognizing teaching excellence and such highly successful programs as the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and programs

administered by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

The Information Revolution Commission report called for creating a living laboratory for all members of the U-M community, upgrading infrastructure over five years, developing an interdisciplinary approach to information technology research and experimenting aggressively with online learning. In January, the University will launch its first e-course on Fathom.com, an online source of knowledge developed from a consortium of leading cultural and educational institutions, including Columbia University, University of Chicago, The NewYork Public Library, The British Museum, and London School of Economics and Political Science. Already the work of more than 20 U-M faculty members is highlighted on the Fathom site.

During his tenure, Bollinger welcomed dignitaries from around the world, including Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel and Former President Gerald R. Ford, who attended the naming of the Ford School of Public Policy in 2000. Bollinger was instrumental in the naming of the Ford School. He also set in motion the restoration of two campus landmarks, Hill Auditorium and the Rackham Building, as well as Mason and Haven Halls.

Statistics over the past four years also tell a positive story. The University’s sound financial condition resulted in a decision by Moody’s Investors to upgrade the U-M’s bond rating in 2000 to Aaa, its highest rating, making the University one of two public universities in the nation to attain this rating. The U-M return on endowment ranked in the top quartile of endowment portfolios for the five-year period ending June 30. In each of the past two years, fundraising from alumni has exceeded $200 million.

Record numbers of students have applied for admission. This fall, 5,400 first-year students were selected from more than 24,000 applicants. Michigan Student Assembly President Matthew Nolan described Bollinger as “an amazingly wonderful person to work with” and praised him for making “Michigan a better place for students.”

Each fall, Bollinger taught a popular undergraduate political science class about the First Amendment and free speech, and since his September 1997 inauguration, he sponsored a 5K fun run for students and other members of the community. On Sept. 16, five days after the terrorist attacks, he and his wife, Jean Magnano Bollinger, invited students to the President’s House to offer them support and a sense of normalcy.

Speaking at the reception, Geoffrey Gagnon, editor in chief of the Michigan Daily said, “As student journalists . . . when we had to write you were leaving, it was with the realization that it was a story we’d rather not be writing.”