Mary Sue Coleman


Honorary Degree (2013)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Winter Commencement
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Michael A. McRobbie


Mary Sue Coleman has led the University of Michigan since being appointed its 13th president in August 2002.

As president, she has unveiled several major initiatives that will have an impact on future generations of students, the intellectual life of the campus, and society at large. These initiatives include the interdisciplinary richness of the U-M, student residential life, the economic vitality of the state and nation, global engagement, and the value of innovation and creativity.

Time magazine has named her one of the nation's "10 best college presidents."

President Coleman is a recognized higher education leader at the national level. President Obama selected her as one of six university presidents to help launch the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national effort bringing together industry, universities and the federal government. And in 2010, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke named her co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Under President Coleman's leadership, the University has launched and expanded academic partnerships with universities in China, Ghana, South Africa and Brazil. She also announced a groundbreaking partnership between the University and Google, which will enable the public to search the text of the University's 7-million-volume library and will open the way to universal access and the preservation of recorded human knowledge.

Dr. Coleman led "The Michigan Difference," a campaign to raise $2.5 billion for the future of the institution. At its conclusion in December 2008, the campaign finale stood at $3.2 billion - the most ever raised by a public university. The university will launch its next ambitious campaign this fall.

She is regarded as a national spokesperson on the educational value of diverse perspectives in the classroom. Her extensive leadership positions in higher education have included membership on the National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Directors and the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. She is the immediate past chair of the Association of American Universities, which encompasses 61 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada. She also served as chair of the Internet2 Board of Trustees.

Elected to the Institute of Medicine, President Coleman also is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She co-chaired a major policy study of the Institute of Medicine, examining the consequences of uninsurance, and has become a nationally recognized expert on the issue.

As a biochemist, Dr. Coleman built a distinguished research career through her research on the immune system and malignancies. At Michigan, she holds appointments of professor of biological chemistry in the Medical School and professor of chemistry in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

For 19 years she was a member of the biochemistry faculty at the University of Kentucky. Her work in the sciences led to administrative appointments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of New Mexico, where she served as provost and vice president for academic affairs. From 1995-2002, Dr. Coleman was president of the University of Iowa.

She is a member of the Business Leaders for Michigan Executive Committee and the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. She also is a trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. She serves on the boards of directors of Johnson & Johnson and the Meredith Corporation.

She earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Grinnell College and her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina.

She holds honorary doctorates from Grinnell College, Luther College, the University of Kentucky, Albion College, Dartmouth College, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Northeastern University, the University of Toledo, the University of Notre Dame, Grand Valley State University, the University of North Carolina, and Eastern Kentucky University.

She is the recipient of a distinguished alumnus award from the University of North Carolina and the Alumni Award from Grinnell College. The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion has honored her as Humanitarian of the Year, and the Michigan Women's Foundation has presented her with its Trillium Lifetime Achievement Award.