Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Committee outlines framework for U-M's bicentennial celebration

U-M should mark its first 200 years with wide-ranging events, activities and initiatives that "celebrate our past, reflect on our present, and contemplate the exciting challenges that will likely redefine higher education during the university's third century," according to a report issued by the Bicentennial Planning Committee.


More information

Read the full report by the Bicentennial Planning Committee.
View a list of the committee members.

Programmatic recommendations

The Bicentennial Planning Committee's report includes recommendations to:

• Create A Bicentennial Transformative Initiative to help this significant milestone better our community and mission, as well as identify what great need of higher education in the century to come demands to be met.

• Highlight U-M's past and present accomplishments, and their relationship to the future.

• Pose "Big Questions for Our Third Century" through a series of lectures and symposia that concern the future of U-M and higher education, and major issues facing society and humankind.

• Mount an extensive effort to engage faculty with communities around the state during the bicentennial year.

• Foster a broad range of named lectures and "Bicentennial Visiting Professors."

• Explore implementation of an omnibus lecture course for seniors that includes the best lectures and lecturers offered that semester.

• Undertake a "Beautify the Campus" initiative in preparation for the events of 2017.


The report stresses that the bicentennial in 2017 should be "everybody's celebration," and that all U-M campuses and stakeholders should play a role.

"The committee thought a lot about what the bicentennial can mean to us as an institution and is very excited about the opportunity this presents," says Gary Krenz, co-chair of the planning committee and special counsel to the president.

"It will be a great celebration of Michigan's remarkable history and role as a defining university. And it will be a great, and hugely symbolic, launch pad for the future. U-M will only enter its third century once, and we should take advantage of this moment."

The committee's four general recommendations call for the bicentennial to:

• Celebrate the university's greatest assets — intellectual creativity and the academic endeavor — and project their future impact.

• Reflect on past achievements and future directions, celebrating and exemplifying U-M's continuing leadership and innovation in higher education.

• Explore a variety of historical tensions U-M has addressed as a way of grounding the exploration of current tensions in higher education and in society.

• Be a time to build or reinforce local, state, national and global connections.

President Mary Sue Coleman appointed the 13-member committee last fall, which met though April and delivered its report in June. The group has completed its charge of recommending a planning framework for the bicentennial. It proposes a steering committee be created to guide planning through 2018, and that a director of bicentennial planning also be appointed.

Coleman and the university's executive officers will consider the recommendations over the next few weeks. Krenz said he expects the next steps in the process will be announced early in the fall.

"The University of Michigan is a remarkable institution, but it tends to be far more forward thinking than one that reflects on its illustrious past," says co-chair Dr. Howard Markel, George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine. "This may be a good outlook for progress as well as evidence of Midwestern modesty; nevertheless, such an outlook does not always do honor to those great Michigan faculty and staff members who preceded us and paved our way.

"The bicentennial gives us a chance to honor the past and present, as well as to look forward to our future. I am confident that it will prove to be a glorious celebration for our entire university community."

The report stresses that the planning and celebration of the bicentennial should be inclusive of U-M’s many constituencies. It recommends engaging faculty through a subcommittee that would be formed to identify, among other things, potential "Bicentennial Professors," who would be charged with creating a particular lecture, symposium, course, or tie-in to one of the performances or exhibits related to the celebration.

The committee also encourages significant roles for students, staff and alumni, and urged schools, colleges, units and organizations to develop their own activities focusing on the university's birthday. It also suggests engaging local, state and national governments, along with the citizens of Michigan and the nation. It proposed identifying a U-M alumnus to serve as a "bicentennial representative" in each Michigan county.

While the bicentennial will begin in January 2017, the major events are suggested to take place during the 2017 fall semester and the 2018 winter semester. They are proposed to include a special halftime event at the Aug. 25, 2017, football game, special events in Detroit and Ann Arbor commemorating those cities' roles in U-M history, dedicated events for the Dearborn and Flint campuses, a universitywide convocation in fall 2017, and a large gala/dinner dance at Michigan Stadium in April 2018.

The report also stated that music, performance and the arts should play a significant part in the celebration. Among the suggestions were special library and museum exhibits, commemorative compositions and concerts, the commissioning of a theatrical production, and a film festival.