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Week of October 14, 2013

Coleman announces bicentennial office, advisory committee


The upcoming bicentennial will recall the University of Michigan’s remarkable past, and serve as fresh inspiration for its future, say university officials as they establish an office devoted to the celebration.

At her annual Leadership Breakfast today, President Mary Sue Coleman named Gary D. Krenz executive director of a newly created Bicentennial Office. She also announced the formation of the Bicentennial Advisory Committee, which will report to the president.

“The bicentennial is an opportunity to tell our story anew. Maybe it’s our Midwestern modesty, but we don’t do as good a job of touting our history as some of our peers do,” Coleman told campus leaders. “Michigan’s impact on creating and advancing disciplines, on research and scholarship, on public higher education, and on society, is singularly impressive.

“The bicentennial compels us to rediscover this impact, tell it, and celebrate it,” she said.

“We were founded in Detroit in 1817 and reorganized in Ann Arbor in 1837. Our bicentennial is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our remarkable and distinguished past and to envision an equally remarkable and exciting third century,” said Krenz, who previously had served as special counsel to the president.

Among key themes that bicentennial organizers will tap into is that U-M is one of the oldest public universities in the United States, built on a commitment to diversity and inclusion, with a deeply embedded sense of public mission and of holding in public trust the pursuit of art, knowledge and the truth.

“We’ve been called the mother of public universities. This is really grounded in values that go back to the very beginning of the institution,” Krenz said. “We were founded by a Catholic priest, a protestant minister and a territorial judge. Their vision really was of a public, non-sectarian institution. That was extremely unusual in that day and age.”

A group of Bicentennial Liaisons also will represent schools, colleges, administrative divisions and other U-M organizations, so all can readily share information and contribute ideas to the planning process.

Coleman announced that Francis Blouin Jr., former director of the Bentley Historical Library and professor of history and information, would chair the Bicentennial Advisory Committee.

Krenz said people can visit a new website at bicentennial.umich.edu to submit ideas and see how planning is progressing. They also can contact the Bicentennial Office at 734-763-2386.

He said the Bicentennial Office also will seek to reinvigorate the story of Michigan’s history, and he encouraged the university community to view the U-M Heritage Project (heritage.umich.edu), devoted to storytelling about U-M’s heritage.

“We also hope they’ll think about the history of their department, office, group or organization, and how it fits into the larger story of Michigan. We’ll be establishing a process, procedures and guidelines for compilation of histories,” Krenz said.

While there will be a significant focus on history, bicentennial planners say the celebration is as much or more about U-M’s third century as it is about its first two.

“The bicentennial is an opportunity to look forward, envision our next 100 years, and recommit to our core values, adjusting to the realities of the 21st century,” Coleman said.

While there will be key, centrally organized events and activities focused on the bicentennial, planners will encourage individual units to plan and organize a robust schedule of events. Krenz said that in this period of financial constraint, organizations may consider repurposing regular events for the bicentennial year, or they might think about doing things in partnership with other organizations.

“We’re just at the beginning of detailed planning. More guidance and information will become available on the website as we make progress,” Krenz said.

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