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McRobbie's history at IU seen as an advantage

Bloomington Herald-Times

by Steve Hinnefeld
March 4, 2007

BLOOMINGTON — Until last week, it had been 36 years since Indiana University selected a president who was already working for the institution.

It worked well then, and it's a good idea now, said President Emeritus John Ryan, who went on to head the university for 16 years after being named IU's leader in January 1971.

"Every university has a sort of subculture of its own. Indiana's no exception," Ryan said. "I think it's an advantage to the president to have a sense of the culture of the place, the sociology of the place, the politics of the place."

IU trustees on Thursday appointed Michael McRobbie the university's 18th president. He has been at IU for 10 years, serving as vice president for information technology and research and interim provost of the Bloomington campus.

He will replace Adam Herbert on July 1.

Ryan, the 14th president, lives in Bloomington and has an office at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He said McRobbie is a good choice for his qualities of intelligence, leadership and the ability to see the big picture.

"I also think it's a good choice because he does have enough experience and knowledge of the university to understand it," he said.

After Ryan, IU went outside to the University of Pennsylvania to hire Tom Ehrlich in 1987, the University of Oregon for Myles Brand in 1994 and the University of North Florida for Herbert in 2003.

Sue Talbot, the trustee who chaired the presidential search committee, said trustees weren't looking for an insider. But she said the fact that McRobbie knows his way around was a mark in his favor.

"There's no long learning curve," she said. "We had faculty tell us, 'Don't give us somebody who's going to do another plan for two years.'"

Several faculty members said this was a good time for a known candidate, with the university having gone through significant changes. Bloomington faculty went public with criticism of Herbert in 2005, and trustees responded by reshaping the administration, creating the provost position and making the president the leader of IU Bloomington as well as the entire university.

"Michael is right in the middle of this stuff," said Ted Miller, a public-affairs professor and president of the Bloomington Faculty Council. "He understands it. He supports it."

Herb Terry, a telecommunications professor and faculty council member, said: "He's been here the right amount of time: long enough to know the place, but not so long it is the only place he knows."