IU President McRobbie Retiring After 14 Years At The Helm

(BLOOMINGTON) – Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie will step down in June 2021 as part of his planned retirement, after 14 years as president and 24 years in senior positions at one of the nation’s top public research universities. During his tenure, IU has been recognized for its leadership across a wide range of key areas, including student success, research and scholarly excellence, community engagement, international education, health sciences training and research, and economic development for all of Indiana.

Indiana University president Michael A McRobbie
Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie speaks during an event at the Indiana Memorial Union. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

McRobbie made the announcement in an email to faculty, staff and students, and during the Aug. 14 Board of Trustees meeting. He will continue leading IU through the current academic year, during which the university will resume in-person teaching and research operations that were interrupted in the spring by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am immensely proud of all that has been accomplished over the period I have been president,” McRobbie said. “All the change and effort has, I believe, consolidated and elevated IU’s position as one of America’s premier and leading research universities.

“But all these accomplishments — and many more — are not a one-person show. They are the collective product of the hard and unremitting work of IU’s outstanding senior leaders, the strong support of superb faculty who have embraced change, engaged and talented students who have and will continue to go on to become leaders in their chosen fields, and exceptional staff whose professionalism and dedication have been the linchpin of so many of our successes.”

McRobbie came to IU in 1997 from his native Australia as its first vice president for information technology and chief information officer. Now a U.S. citizen, he was appointed vice president for research in 2003 and named interim provost and vice president for academic affairs for IU Bloomington in 2006. He became IU’s 18th president on July 1, 2007, making him one of the longest-serving university presidents in the country.

Among his major accomplishments are:

  • Ensuring an IU education remains affordable and accessible, with 75 percent of IU students being Hoosiers and a quarter of students coming from minority backgrounds. During McRobbie’s tenure, IU has also pioneered path-breaking student financial literacy programs that are national models and have resulted in savings to students of more than $138 million since 2011.
  • Overseeing the most comprehensive academic transformation in the university’s history, with new schools and programs in multiple areas including public health, international studies, architecture and engineering.
  • Reaffirming IU’s commitment to diversity and equity. For three consecutive years, IU’s student body has included more than 20,000 degree-seeking minority students, setting a new record for diversity at the university and representing nearly a doubling of the number of minority students at IU since 2007.
  • Advancing IU’s leadership in health sciences education and research and business education in close partnership with IU Health, and facilitating several major investments in public health. These investments include the Grand Challenges initiative and the new IU Health Regional Academic Health Center on the Bloomington campus, which are addressing Indiana’s most critical health and wellness challenges.
  • Overseeing the renovation of nearly all major buildings across IU, the development of new buildings and structures, and the completion of the IU Bloomington athletics masterplan.
  • Rejuvenating and expanding IU’s international engagement through new partnerships with leading international universities, five new IU Global Gateway offices around the world and the establishment of new IU Alumni Association chapters in all 30 of IU’s carefully selected priority countries. McRobbie has also prioritized study abroad for all IU students. IU Bloomington ranks in the top 10 in number of students who study abroad, and today about a third of its students have participated in overseas study by the time they have graduated.
  • Overseeing the largest fundraising campaign in IU’s history and one of the largest ever by a public university. The $3 billion For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign has supported 5,700 new endowed undergraduate and graduate scholarships and fellowships — a 45 percent increase over the previous nearly 100 years.
  • Continuing IU’s leadership in information technology and supercomputing with the acquisition of Big Red II and Big Red 200. One of the fastest university-owned supercomputers in the nation, Big Red 200 is supporting advanced research in AI, machine learning, and scientific and medical research.
  • Establishing, in 2012, the pioneering IU Online program, which provides an authentically IU experience with courses and degrees taught by IU faculty and that are an extension of the IU curriculum.
  • Continuing and strengthening IU’s longstanding commitment to excellence in the arts and humanities. The New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities seed funding program, launched in 2004 with the support of a Lilly Endowment grant, has invested nearly $13 million in projects involving over 530 faculty members across the state.
  • Leading the university through its recently completed Bicentennial Year celebration.

“In his 13 years as president, Michael McRobbie has overseen an extensive transformation of IU’s academic landscape, worked tirelessly to enhance the quality and diversity of IU’s student body, and strengthened IU’s reputation as the state’s research powerhouse,” said Michael J. Mirro, chair of the IU Board of Trustees. “He has also regularly offered generous and wise counsel to me and other members of the IU Board of Trustees on the most important issues facing IU and higher education in our state. We are deeply grateful to him for his exceptional service, and we appreciate that he will continue to lead us through this challenging and unprecedented time in the university’s history.”

President Michael A. McRobbie and first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie wave from a car
Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie and first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie ride in the IU Bloomington Homecoming Parade along Woodlawn Avenue in 2016. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

IU first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie has joined McRobbie as an active ambassador for the university and its extensive global alumni community. A technologist in higher education for more than 25 years, she has focused on initiatives in technology, STEM, philanthropy and the growing influence of women in these areas. She is a founder of the Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council at the IU Foundation and serves as its honorary chair. She also founded the Serve IT Nonprofit Technology Clinic, played a central role in the establishment of the IU Center of Excellence for Women and Technology in Bloomington, and serves on the boards of several organizations in Bloomington and Indianapolis, and as a commissioner on the Indiana Arts Commission.

McRobbie’s leadership will continue as IU faces perhaps the biggest challenge in its 200-year history. He is committed to keeping the IU community safe during the pandemic, while ensuring that Indiana’s flagship public university continues contributing to the health and well-being of Hoosiers across the state.

Under McRobbie’s leadership, IU faculty, staff, and students have been on the frontlines of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health, IU is conducting a study to measure the spread of the novel coronavirus among Hoosiers. Researchers have tested thousands of viral infections and antibodies. IU and IU Health are also partnering on a comprehensive effort to provide screening, testing, and management of COVID-19 for the 140,000 IU faculty, staff, and students at all locations across the state.

The Board of Trustees began planning for McRobbie’s transition when he informed members of his decision to retire several months ago, and it approved a resolution on Friday forming a Presidential Search Committee to conduct a national search for McRobbie’s successor. Trustees Harry L. Gonso and Melanie Walker will serve as co-chairs, and the remainder of the committee will be appointed by Mirro.

“Indiana University has benefited enormously from Michael McRobbie’s steady leadership, wisdom, innovative ideas and experience,” Walker said. “As one of the longest-tenured and most accomplished university presidents in the nation, he will leave large shoes to fill. But I am confident we will identify a leader who will build upon his accomplishments and continue to further IU’s longstanding traditions of academic excellence, world-class research and engagement in the life of our state.”

“As an IU trustee and in my work in business and community affairs, I have been fortunate to experience, first-hand, Michael McRobbie’s commitment to strengthening IU’s core academic mission, to keeping an IU education affordable and accessible to Hoosiers, and to research and innovation that have translated into new Indiana companies and high-quality jobs for Hoosiers,” Gonso said. “Our goal will be to identify a talented and experienced individual who can match Michael’s tireless energy and dedication to the success of our students and the communities we serve, while also maintaining IU’s standing as one of the nation’s leading public research universities.”

A search advisory committee will also be appointed that will seek input from university constituents and provide input to the Presidential Search Committee. IU has also retained a search firm to assist. The search committee’s intent will be to have a new leader in place when McRobbie leaves office.

For more information about President McRobbie’s vision and initiatives during his tenure at IU, visit president.iu.edu.

What they’re saying

“Under President McRobbie’s steadfast leadership, Indiana University has expanded its presence both nationally and internationally over the last decade, keeping Hoosiers competitive and coveted by employers. His efforts have ensured all IU graduates leave campus with a first-rate, globally focused education and have helped elevate Indiana’s profile as a locus of talent and opportunity.” — U.S. Sen. Todd Young

“During President Michael McRobbie’s tenure, the state of Indiana has benefited in incalculable ways. From Indiana University’s ever-increasing engagement in transformational economic development projects to improving our international standing abroad, Michael’s leadership has enhanced the Hoosier state’s reputation globally. His never-ending commitment to both fostering creativity and critical inquiry while delivering cutting-edge research, along with 21st-century-ready talent, has positioned the school and state to be ideal places to grow. All that said, from one of the best-managed and most beautiful campuses in the country. Bravo to President McRobbie for the long list of accomplishments he leaves as a guiding compass for his successor, and congratulations to both him and Laurie as they consider their next act. Michael McRobbie has made us all Indiana proud.” — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb

“All at AAU celebrate the long and successful tenure of Michael McRobbie as president of Indiana University and as chair of our board. Due to an unexpected presidential transition, Michael has chaired the board for 18 months, rather than the usual 12 months, during a time of considerable challenge for higher education. On any given day, Michael could be called upon for urgent consultation and advice about issues that potentially could have a very negative impact on America’s leading research universities, a duty to which he cheerfully acceded. AAU depends on such good citizenship by our presidents and chancellors, and Michael has been simply one of the best. Given that he is Australian as well as a U.S. citizen, his international perspective has also been invaluable. In short, Michael McRobbie is a consummate good steward of higher education in the U.S. and the world. ” — Mary Sue Coleman, former president of the Association of American Universities

“I thought we hired a good president, and we hired a great president. Michael has great vision, hired great leaders, was recognized by his peers worldwide, built much-needed physical facilities, restored the historic buildings, rebuilt the athletic facilities, increased the endowment to new levels, emphasized diversity, supported the arts, increased international enrollment, raised research funding and raised the rating of the university. Michael is a true Renaissance man and established the future of IU in the world.” — Stephen L. Ferguson, chairman of the board of Cook Group Inc. and former IU Board of Trustees chairman

“Among President McRobbie’s countless significant contributions to IU, one of particular importance is the Grand Challenges program, which fosters broadly integrative and interdisciplinary research focused on societal problems that influence the health and well-being of Hoosiers. In particular, he supported the Grand Challenge titled Prepared for Environmental Change, which will help Indiana escape some of the disruptions brought about by climate change that might otherwise have come our way. This is one of many examples of President McRobbie’s unusual ability to foresee the future and to bring the university’s exceptional resources to serve the people of our state.” — Ellen Ketterson, IU Distinguished Professor of biology, and founding director and scientific advisor of the Environmental Resilience Institute