A legacy of accomplishment, risk-taking, and leadership
On Aug. 26, 1817 – 20 years before Michigan gained statehood – the University of Michigania was born in the fur trading post of Detroit.
The first act of the founders was to call for 13 professorships in such disciplines as mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, literature, medicine, and natural history. The professors’ responsibilities included establishing schools, colleges, museums, laboratories, gardens, and libraries. Faculty handled all of these duties because there was no president and they were in charge.
This, of course, is every faculty member’s dream.
On the same day the University was established, the founders set the salaries for the faculty: Twelve dollars and fifty cents. Per year.
Now, the academic disciplines have expanded exponentially, the salaries and benefits are more robust, and our location has shifted from Detroit to Ann Arbor, with regional campuses in Dearborn and Flint.
But one thing has remained constant: U-M continues to place faculty at the heart of its comprehensive academic enterprise. Over the decades, the U-M faculty has featured the philosopher John Dewey, the poet Robert Frost, and the genetics pioneer Francis Collins. William LeBaron Jenney, the father of the American skyscraper, taught our first architecture courses. Esther Van Deman was renowned for her fieldwork in Roman archaeology. Elizabeth Crosby, a distinguished neuroanatomist, received the National Medal of Science.
Epidemiologist Thomas Francis conducted massive field trials that confirmed the effectiveness of the polio vaccine. And Joseph Brodsky, a Nobel Laureate and U.S. Poet Laureate, began his teaching career at Michigan after being exiled from the Soviet Union.
Infusion of talent
There is a legacy of accomplishment, risk-taking, and leadership, and I am particularly excited about our newest faculty members and the many perspectives they will bring to our campus. Let me share how their work supports our mission as a public research university.
Gokcin Cinar is an assistant professor of aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering. She immerses herself in how to design sustainable aviation systems. She and others in her research lab want to engineer environmentally friendly aircraft that use less energy, produce fewer emissions, and generate less noise. Professor Cinar joined us earlier this year – remotely – and we are pleased to now have her on campus.Ekow Yankah is one of 20 new faculty members at the Law School. He is the new Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law at the university where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1997. He returns to Michigan after a distinguished career at the Cardozo Law School in New York. Professor Yankah uses criminal law and political philosophy to explore issues of punishment, race and policing, and mass incarceration. He also is a champion of voting rights. We are thrilled he has come home to his alma mater.
At the Institute for Social Research, one of the new faces this fall is Joe LaBriola, a research assistant professor in the Survey Research Center. He completed his doctorate at UC-Berkeley a year ago. Now, at ISR, he will help us understand how housing contributes to racial and social inequalities in this country.
And at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Nicole Keller is joining us as a new assistant professor of organ. She is an accomplished performer and a highly regarded teacher who will help further a music department known for its excellence.
Environmental sustainability … racial justice and social equity … arts and creativity … all of this scholarship exemplifies what we believe here at Michigan.
Between new faculty and incoming students, our future as a great institution is unlimited.
No better job in higher education
Please join me in welcoming our newest faculty throughout U-M’s schools and colleges. Their unique professional experiences and personal histories will make Michigan more interesting intellectually. Thank you to the deans, associate deans, and department chairs for recruiting these impressive scholars.
As president, advancing the superior intellectual work of Michigan has always been my top priority. As you may know, I will be stepping down as president in mid-October. I served from 2002-14 and returned at the start of this year at the request of the Board of Regents.
The 15th president of the University will be Dr. Santa J. Ono, who comes to us from the University of British Columbia. He is an accomplished scientist and higher education leader, and his energy is infectious.
Serving as U-M’s president is a tremendous privilege. I believe Dr. Ono will soon feel as I always have, that there is no better job in higher education.
Mary Sue Coleman
University of Michigan President
(Adapted from remarks presented at the new faculty orientation, Aug. 24, 2022; lead image by Michigan Photography.)