The Race to Replace Mary Sue Coleman – Odds on the University of Michigan’s next President

The Race to Replace Mary Sue Coleman – Odds on the University of Michigan’s next President

Submitted by James Burrill Angell on April 22nd, 2013 at 1:59 PM

The Race to Replace Mary Sue – Odds on Michigan’s next President

Although I’m aware there are many casual fans and high school students in our MGoCommunity, I also know we have a fair share of alums, many of whom do in fact care about the University as it extends beyond Hill Street (meaning academic campus). If you were not aware before, the University’s now fourth longest serving president, Mary Sue Coleman will be retiring after the 2013-2014 school year. This fact was stated by President Coleman many times in the last year or two (presumptively so the word got out and interested candidates could quietly send word of their interest) but was made “official” at the Regents meeting a few days ago. With that official announcement, the Detroit Free Press wrote the first official article discussing the future of the University’s top spot

So, in the spirit of the official off-season here at MGoBlog and as we all enjoy our lists, oddsmaking and generally anything that we can fight about, I offer forth what will hopefully be a periodic diary regarding potential candidates to be the 14thPresident of the University of Michigan.  Needless to say that the formal process to replace Mary Sue Coleman has just started.  That said, anyone who knows the great political machine that is the University bureaucracy knows that candidates have been making themselves known to those that matter for the last year. Behind the scenes camps are forming and campaigns are beginning with champions of certain candidates carrying the names of their favorites through with the Regents and other high end University donors. In fact, its clear from the quotes of some of the Regents who spoke in the Free Press article, not only are names being bounced around at the Regent level, but apparently there are some names being given consideration from fields outside the traditional academia positions of provosts, chancellors and presidents. Might there be a former or current White House cabinet member out there looking for a landing spot much in the way the University of Miami (YTM) gave former Clinton White House Secretary of Health & Human Services Donna Shalala their Presidency?

Needless to say the new President could come from anywhere much the way Mary Sue Coleman came over from Iowa with little prior contact with UofM. Most of the early mentions have been candidates who have had some prior contact with UofM. However, this will change and update, particularly after the University hires a search company and the respective closets are searched for skeletons. That said, there are a few obvious qualities that the next President will likely need to possess. First and foremost will be the ability to either raise funds or not get in the way of people like Jerry May, the University’s Vice President of Development, to raise those funds. At some point this fall the University will formally unveil its next big fundraising campaign (which has silently been worked on for a little over a year now.  You didn’t think those large gifts from the Zells, Penny Stamps and Charlie Munger within the last six months were some kind of lucky coincidence did you?). The goal on this campaign will be to clear five billion dollars (in comparison, the Michigan Difference campaign raised about $3.5 billion). That means our next President will be stepping into his or her role about twelve to eighteen months into the campaign. Second, at least four recent Regents have run their campaign based on stopping increases in tuition. You can bet the Regents will look hard at all candidates and their ideas regarding handling the budget of the University at a time when the State of Michigan legislature continues to minimize what it pays out to its universities. Finally, the President at Michigan has to be able to juggle not just the faculty and academics at the University but a massive University hospital system that is nearly unmatched nationally in size, scope, research and budget as far as University run hospitals are concerned. Also, the new President had better be ready to deal with UofM athletics and all that encompasses, not the least of which is David Brandon who has made no shortage of enemies north of Hill Street by massively expanding the size and breadth of the athletic department fundraising staff to the point where most Dean’s are nervous about having their donors being squeezed or swayed away from putting their name on that new lecture hall and having it end up on that new luxury box or weight room or endowed athletic scholarship. It’s a tough job but there should be no shortage of candidates. Those who love the University will be watching closely to see who our new leader will be. With that in mind, and another reminder that the early field will likely be loaded with those with previous Michigan contacts, I present the early voting odds. Someone notify Vegas and see if they’re taking action.


Theresa Sullivan– Currently she is President of the University of Virginia. Formerly Provost at Michigan starting in 2006 when she came over from a high level administrative job at the University of Texas, she left for Virginia in 2010. She was very well received during her time at Michigan and has her bachelor’s degree from MSU (ties to the State of Michigan). Went through an ugly episode with the UVA Board of Visitors (their Regents) where she was ultimately fired and then reinstated in what amounted to a political coup by some of their Board members who wanted a bigger name candidate for the position when Sullivan was hired. So having survived that and only being there three years, perhaps she’s unlikely to leave since she’s been there a short period of time. On the other hand, maybe she has had enough of UVA and wants to come back where she’s wanted? ODDS 10-1

Marvin Krislov – The current President of Oberlin College since 2007. While one might raise an eyebrow about moving from a smaller school like Oberlin to Michigan, remember that Marvin was the Vice-President and General Counsel at Michigan for nine years before assuming the job at Oberlin. He’s worked with much of the current leadership at Michigan and specifically was integral in the handling of the Ed Martin scandal and subsequent NCAA investigation and the affirmative action case that went before the Supreme Court. Accordingly, Mr. Krislov has handled the brightest lights on the big stage at Michigan before and handled it well. ODDS 20-1

Nancy Cantor– Currently President of Syracuse University which she started in 2004 after leaving the Provost’s position at Michigan. She has raised over a billion dollars during her ten year tenure at Syracuse University and UofM will be in the first year or two of its next big financial campaign which is rumored to have a fundraising goal of $5 billion. Further, Cantor has indicated that she will not renew her contract with Syracuse when it ends in 2014 meaning she’ll be available when Mary Sue Coleman retires. One has to wonder if there is a reason for that. One big knock on Cantor is that during her tenure at Syracuse, the University has taken criticism that it has dropped in academic reputation and, voluntarily withdrew from the Association of American Universities (AAU that we hear about so often in looking for new Big Ten schools) rather than be kicked out. ODDS 30-1

Timothy White – Current Chancellor of the Cal State system, former President of Cal State Riverside for four years and former President of the University of Idaho for four years. Before that, he was the Provost at Oregon State. White did his post doctoral studies and was on the faculty at Michigan (his first professional position). His administrative experience can’t be understated and for clarification, he runs the WHOLE Cal State system (that’s 23 campuses). Dealing with the size of Michigan shouldn’t be an issue. ODDS 40-1

Evan Caminker – I don’t see this one as much as some other people do. I want to call this the Bollinger effect where people assume there is some kind of line directly from the Law School Dean’s chair to the President’s residence. Caminker was a fine Dean of the Michigan Law School for ten years having only recently decided to not renew after the end of his last contract. However, running the WHOLE University (athletics, hospital and all schools) is a far cry from just the law school. The one feather I’ll put in Caminker’s cap that could prove useful is that he had a reputation as a good fundraiser. The Law School underwent some tremendous renovation and addition that was backed up by tremendous fundraising during Caminker’s tenure. Michigan may need that in the next few years if they seriously look to hit the five billion dollar mark in this next capital campaign. Conversely, I’ve heard others say Caminker is enjoying being a professor again and may not want to go back to being an administrator. ODDS 40-1

Martha Pollack– Will assume the role of Provost at Michigan when Phil Hanlon leaves for Dartmouth this summer. Some have said she’s been given the role as a warm up to eventually being named the President. Others have said it’s a done deal. The highest administrative role she’s held previously was Vice Provost for Budgetary and Academic Affairs since 2010 and before that she was the Dean of UofM’s School of Information. People who know her love her and say she’s got the stuff. That said, compare the resume to those of some of the others on this list. In MGoBlog terms, would this be going for a Big Ten coordinator over a sitting head coach? ODDS 60-1


Wallace Loh – Current President of the University of Maryland, College Park – Got his Ph.D. in psychology from Michigan. He has plenty of University administration experience as he was previously the dean of the University of Washington School of Law, vice chancellor of the University of Colorado, a Dean at Seattle University, and most recently provost at the University of Iowa where he oversaw budgets and personnel for the state university's eleven colleges. He’s also responsible for bringing the school into the Big Ten. ODDS 75-1

Thomas Haas– Thomas Haas is the current President of Grand Valley State University and was formerly President of SUNY Cobleskill for three years. Haas has two masters degrees from Michigan but seems like a bit of longshot considering the smaller schools, budgets, lack of a large hospital system or large athletics at the schools he has presided over.  ODDS 150 - 1

Phil Hanlon –Current UofM Provost, leaving to become President at his alma mater Dartmouth College in July.  Can’t imagine he would have accepted the Dartmouth position knowing full well that the Michigan job would be opening.   His odds are only so wide because he just accepted the Dartmouth job. Otherwise, he’d be infinitely qualified and frankly, the logical choice. ODDS 300-1

THE DARK HORSES– I have heard a few names recently but I can’t buy them until we get them on campus for an official recruiting visit. If that happens, hold on to your hat. These people could all play as freshmen…….errr……I mean they could all very easily be good picks.

Arne Duncan – Duncan is the current Secretary of Education under President Obama. There was some speculation he might not stay on in the position in the second term but he did end up staying. That said, by the time he would start there would only be about a year and a half left on his term in the Obama Administration so its not unreasonable that he might have to jump for a longer term opportunity. Duncan is originally from Chicago (the son of two UofChicago professors). He was also a basketball player while at Harvard which may give him the insight to deal with our athletics program. Duncan has no experience running a University, nor fundraising (which will be important since the new President will be knee deep in a fundraising campaign). His professional credentials are centered around his turnaround of the Chicago Public School system. The lack of university experience hurts, but the name recognition and contacts he has made working in the White House for six years could make up for that. ODDS 330-1

David Brandon– Under any normal circumstance I would be laughing at this along with you. BUT never forget (a) he was a Regent previously. Someone once told me he is THE second most powerful person at the University above any Dean, Provost, or Vice President. Considering his past business power, political ties, and close relationship with Mary Sue Coleman, would it really shock you?  ODDS 350 – 1

Patricia White– After you say “who?”….you could make an argument that if Caminker, why not White. Dean White is the Dean of the University of Miami (YTM) School of Law and holds her bachelors, masters and juris doctor from our own beloved University of Michigan. White has been Dean at Miami since 2009 and was previously the Dean at Arizona State University’s Law School. She has also previously been on faculty at Michigan Law School and also worked at Bodman, Longley, a powerful law firm in Michigan. Further, she has some experience in athletics as she was a tax advisor to Major League Baseball.  ODDS 400-1


THE PACK– I’m calling this group The Pack. Its mainly comprised of Presidents of Universities with, if you’ll pardon the Michigan arrogance, lesser academic reputations than Michigan. It seems unlikely that Michigan would want to hire a sitting President from a school that isn’t at least Top 50 kind of school, Ivy League, Big Ten, maybe someone from a more prestigious east or west coast University. As mentioned in the Free Press article Stephanie Bergeron, president of Walsh College, David Eisler, president of Ferris State University, , and Susan Martin, president of Eastern Michigan University and Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo all are local presidents. All actually have ties to the region and many have ties to the University of Michigan. It just seems unlikely that the powers that be would be accepting of someone who didn’t come from a school with a very significant national academic reputation as well as someone who comes from a school that has had to manage the significant issues that go along with high end Division 1 athletics. Realistically how can you expect someone from one of these Universities to step on to campus and handle David Brandon and not get walked all over. ODDS: 500-1

OT: UM University President Jinx (follow up to B1G Presidential Jinx)

OT: UM University President Jinx (follow up to B1G Presidential Jinx)

Submitted by Butterfield on April 17th, 2012 at 11:21 AM

After yesterday's thread ( )  about how a B1G institution has never produced an elected POTUS, I was curious to see whether Michigan actually found our own University Presidents from within our alumni ranks.  I was pretty surprised to see that, not counting interim Presidents who served two years or less, we have to go bakc to Alexander Ruthven (1929-51) to find our last University President who attended Michigan, either as a undergraduate or graduate student. 

In the 60+ years since Ruthven:

Harlan Hatcher (1951-67):  BA, MA, PhD from Ohio State, additional graduate studies at Univeristy of Chicago

Robben Wright Fleming (1968-78):  BA from Beloit College, LLB from Wisconsin-Madison

Harold Shapiro (1980-88):  Lower Canada College (degree unknown), B.Comm from McGill University, PhD from Princeton

James Duderstadt (1988-96): BA from Yale, MA and PhD from Cal Tech

Lee Bollinger (1996-2002): BS from Oregon, JD from Columbia

Mary Sue Coleman (2002-Present):  Grinnell College, North Carolina Chapel Hill ((Degrees in BioChem?  Can't find her specific degrees on the interwebz)

There are a lot of great presidents with buildings named after them listed above, however we just don't seem to like our own....this actually bothers me a little more than the POTUS data because our regents have complete control over who gets hired.  The best person should get the job, but is the best person never a Michigan graduate?

Photo of Obama taking the field at the Big House

Photo of Obama taking the field at the Big House

Submitted by BlueinDC on June 7th, 2010 at 7:41 AM

The White House released a set of behind-the-scenes photos on Monday from President Barack Obama's appearances over the past month.

One photo, by official WH photographer Pete Souza, shows Obama getting ready to take the field for U-M's commencement at the Big House on May 1st. The president is shown, by himself, touching the "Go Blue, Hold the Rope" sign above the entrance to the field.

Check out the photo below:


Obama ready to take the field