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Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2010

IU President McRobbie presents University Medal to Elinor and Vincent Ostrom

Note: Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize lecture, as delivered at the IU Auditorium, can be seen at A link to the PowerPoint presentation for the lecture is at

Feb. 17, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie on Tuesday (Feb. 16) presented the University Medal to Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom, eminent IU political scientists and co-founders of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.

McRobbie presented the medal at the IU Auditorium prior to Elinor Ostrom's presentation of her Nobel Prize lecture for an Indiana University and Bloomington audience of more than 2,000 people. She is the co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics and the first woman to receive the prize.

Ostroms and McRobbie

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

President McRobbie (left) describes the work of Vincent (right) and Elinor Ostrom before presenting them with the University Medal.

Print-Quality Photo

"Lin Ostrom is a person who combines brilliance with collegiality and exuberance with modesty," McRobbie said. "She epitomizes what it means to be a scholar and a true colleague who shares her success with others as generously as she shares her ideas.

"Both Lin and Vincent Ostrom have been vital members of the Indiana University community since they arrived here over four decades ago," he said. "For nearly every award, publication, and service that Lin contributed to this university and to her discipline, we could find a parallel in Vincent's career. It is my distinct privilege, on behalf of Indiana University, to add another joint honor to Lin and Vincent Ostrom's long list of accolades."

McRobbie also announced Tuesday that Elinor Ostrom will be elevated to the rank of distinguished professor, the most prestigious academic appointment Indiana University can offer. The rank of distinguished professor honors outstanding scholarship, artistic or literary distinction, or other achievements that have won signficant recognition by peers.

The University Medal, created in 1982 by then IU President John W. Ryan, is the highest award bestowed by Indiana University. It honors individuals for singular or noteworthy contributions, including service to the university and achievement in arts, letters, science and law, and is the only IU medal that requires approval from the Board of Trustees.

Elinor Ostrom shared the 2009 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, commonly known as the Nobel Prize in Economics, with Oliver Williamson, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

She is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and senior research director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, which she and Vincent Ostrom, her husband and colleague, co-founded at IU in 1973. She also is founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, Arizona State University.

She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society and a recipient of the Reimar Lüst Award for International Scholarly and Cultural Exchange and many other awards.

Her books include Governing the Commons (1990); Understanding Institutional Diversity (2005); The Samaritan's Dilemma: The Political Economy of Development Aid (2005, with Clark Gibson, Krister Andersson, and Sujai Shivakumar); and Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice (forthcoming in 2010, with Amy Poteete and Marco Janssen).

Vincent Ostrom is the Arthur F. Bentley Professor Emeritus of Political Science and founding director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. He has been a fellow of the Social Science Research Council and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, contributed to the drafting of the Alaska Constitution, and has been president of the Public Choice Society.

His books include The Meaning of American Federalism: Constituting a Self-Governing Society (1991), The Intellectual Crisis in American Public Administration (1973, 2008) and The Political Theory of a Compound Republic: Designing the American Experiment (1971, 2008). He has served on the editorial boards of Constitutional Political Economy, International Journal of Organization and Behavior, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism and received the Atlas Economic Research Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award.

The University Medal has been awarded only 11 times. Previous recipients include former IU Presidents Herman B Wells, Myles Brand and Adam W. Herbert, U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, and IU Foundation President Curt Simic and IU Vice President J. Terry Clapacs, who received the medal on their retirement. The first recipient was Thomas T. Solley, who was retiring as director of the IU Art Museum. The medallion is made of 18-karat gold and bears on its face the Indiana University seal. For more information, see