The University Record, September 24, 1997

The Inauguration of Lee C. Bollinger

Shapiro: 'Job description may seem a tall order'


By Jane R. Elgass

With more than a twinge of humor, President Emeritus Harold T. Shapiro told Lee Bollinger during the inauguration ceremony that he was "somewhat puzzled when the Regents announced your appointment. It was of course easy to understand why they chose a fine scholar, especially one whose work focused on the freedom of speech, a distinguished academic dean and a successful provost."

"But I wondered could they possibly have known what they were doing when they appointed a lawyer! What were they thinking?

"As I thought about it more carefully," Shapiro said, "I realized that the Regents in fact were very much in command of their wits. Rather than succumbing to the passing fashions of the times, they must have taken a longer, more statesmanlike view and correctly realized, for example, that on the threshold of many great civilizations at those key historical moments when myth gave way to recorded history stand a series of great law-givers and legal codes, from Babylon's Code of Hammurabi to the Twelve Tables of Roman Law to the establishment of English Common Law under Henry II to the glorious resilience of the American Constitution.

"When I think about the great library of Michigan's Law School and the light that streams through those marvelous stained glass windows, which depict the symbols of so many distinguished institutions of higher education both in this country and abroad I see an enduring monument to the inextricable link between law and learning. And it is a most fitting emblem for the kind of leadership our Regents were seeking for Michigan's future. In this context, it is easy to understand why they chose Lee Bollinger to lead Michigan into the next millenium, and how right they were."

Bollinger sought Shapiro's counsel when he was considering accepting the presidency, and Shapiro noted in his address that "since I very much wanted you to accept the job, there were just a few things I neglected to mention. Now, then, is the moment for some deeper revelations."

"In truth, Lee, being a university president is a rather odd occupation in the sense that it involves nurturing a venerable institution that carries great ethical significance for our future. But at that same time it also involves a certain amount of symbolic and sentimental activity that seem far removed from the University's larger purposes."

Articulating the community's expectations of the new president, Shapiro noted that in dealing with faculty, "you will be expected to value the very broad range of their opinions, and the dignity of their positions, while at the same time reminding them that they may be wrong!"

Bollinger also, Shapiro said, will be expected to mobilize resources, foster an intense and productive climate of intellectual debate, and have the "vision to clear away the cobwebs of day-to-day circumstances and self-involvement and bring into sharper focus the kaleidoscope of conversations that take place between, among and across the generations."

"Above all, however, as our colleague Saul Hymans reminded me on this very podium almost two decades ago, you will be expected to successfully balance your desire to provide more money for the faculty with the need to provide more faculty for the money!"

Also on Shapiro's list of expectations:

ð Enhancing the financial base of the University.

ð Guarding its autonomy.

ð Leading the Board of Regents in a way to assure their support.

ð Being ever responsive to others.

ð Ridding "this great university of whatever injustices, insensitivities and repressions survive from another age, to remove the shackles of history and tradition but remain true to those traditional values that have informed the enlightened development of this distinguished institution."

The president also will be expected, Shapiro said, "to foster an independence of mind coupled with a dedication to the purposes of teaching and scholarship" among faculty and staff, and "be all things to all alumni. . . an unfailing steward . . . and a visionary."

"With respect to students, of course, you will be expected to help rouse even the most reluctant of them from their lethargy, while at the same time moderating and guiding the excess energies of the hyperactive.

"Moreover, you will be expected to be personally responsible for each student's emotional, physical, spiritual and mental heath; for the development of their altruistic spirit; and for transforming them into leaders, even legends, and perhaps, who knows, saviors of humankind.

"This job description,'" Shapiro stated, "may seem a tall order, but I regret to inform you it represents only a fraction of the responsibilities you will be expected to carry out.

"This indeed is a great moment for a great university."

Here we are like Wolverines in formation

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry, 'For Lee! For Jean! For Michigan!'

Go Blue!

--With "due apologies" to Shakespeare for the modifications of Henry V's words, President Emeritus Harold T. Shapiro's closing comment.