You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Top 5: Mary Sue Coleman's accomplishments at the University of Michigan

By Kellie Woodhouse


Mary Sue Coleman during a April 18 Board of Regents meeting.

Melanie Maxwell |

Mary Sue Coleman announced she will step down as leader of the University of Michigan in July 2014, and as the search for a successor begins officials agree Coleman is leaving a legacy that will be hard to match.

"She leaves very big shoes to fill," said regent Mark Bernstein. "This is a different institution than when she started as president."

Over the course of 11 years, Coleman has raised billions for the school, overseen dozens of major construction projects and championed entrepreneurship— all the while watching as the Ann Arbor school steadily gained credibility and international recognition.

Here are five of her top accomplishments during her tenure:

1. Fundraising

Coleman is credited with being a great fundraiser.

She was central to exceeding fundraising goals during the last capital campaign, when ended in 2008. About $3.2 billion was raised during the four-year Michigan Difference campaign, which surpassed the original $2.5 billion goal. Roughly 365,000 people contributed to that campaign.

"She may be the best fundraiser in higher education," said U-M regent Mark Bernstein. "She has a combination of intelligence and tenacity and an ability to identify opportunities for philanthropy that is extraordinary."

Added Andrea Fischer Newman, vice chair of the Board of Regents: "How good has she been? Phenomenal." U-M Provost Philip Hanlon called Coleman "terrifically persuasive."

Coleman has laid the groundwork for a campaign set to begin in the fall that will likely last between five and seven years. Its focus will be distinct from the Michigan Difference, with an eye toward people and scholarships and less on buildings. There were 22 building projects in the last campaign. U-M has placed a heightened emphasis on student aid. Since 2007, the school has increased its centrally-awarded aid from $99 million to $145 million.

U-M has received a handful of eight-figure donations recently, including a $50 million donation for the Health System, a $32.5 million donation for the art school and most recently a $110 million gift —the largest in university history— from Charles Munger. Munger attended the university, but did not graduate. He has also gifted more than $20 million to the law school.


Mary Sue Coleman with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder during the 2011 commencement.

Melanie Maxwell |

"That is a gift that took years to close and a relationship that she developed almost single handedly," Bernstein said of Munger and Coleman.

2. Entrepreneurship and start-up empowerment

The past decade has seen a marked increase in entrepreneurial activities and initiatives at the university, including the creation of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Office of Technology Transfer and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

The school in 2012 produced 368 new inventions, a U-M record. Coleman has partnered with Wayne State University and Michigan State University to establish a research cluster that rivals those in Massachusetts and California and contributes a $15.5 billion economic impact to Michigan each year.

Spinning inventions off into companies has been a point of emphasis for the university for the past decade, with 98 new start-up companies using technologies that were first developed in an academic setting.

Under Coleman's guidance, the school has agreed to invest $25 million of its endowment into its own spinoffs. U-M's Venture Accelerator, launched two years ago, has helped roughly 20 U-M spinoffs get their start.

"She has had the vision to understand the importance of really escalating creativity and innovation on campus and supporting mechanisms which elevate that," Hanlon said. "She understands that a great university is all about pushing frontiers."

Coleman said the university has streamlined its internal process to make entrepreneurship easier for faculty and students. She said entrepreneurship has "ramped up" over the past decade. The emphasis was partly driven by the state's economy and the region's need for economic activity.

"We accelerated our efforts because the state was undergoing such an economic collapse," she said. Coleman serves as co-chair of President Barack Obama's National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

In a 2010 Forbes column, she emphasized the importance of promoting entrepreneurial activities among students and said U-M was setting an example for the higher education community. Universities, she said, need to support students and "what some might call their 'crazy ideas.'"

3. Purchase of the ex-Pfizer site and creation of the North Campus Research Complex

In 2009 Coleman made the final decision to purchase the 2.2-million-square-foot, 28-building Pfizer complex for a staggeringly low price of $108 million.

The complex, which sits on 174 acres in Northeast Ann Arbor, was turned into the North Campus Research Complex and is operated chiefly by the medical school, engineering school and researchers in the science disciplines. More than 2,000 employees now work at the complex.

The complex has helped alleviate a space crunch for the university and administrators say it has increased collaboration among U-M researchers.

"The development of the North Campus Research Complex is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Coleman said in 2012. "Universities never have the chance to purchase 2.2 million square feet of space and all this land at pennies on the dollar. And so for us it was just a tremendous, tremendous opportunity."

4. On-Campus housing changes

Coleman launched the Residential Life Initiative in the mid-2000s and has spearheaded the renovation of the campus' oldest residence halls, most of which were built in the early- to mid-1900s. The renovations have transformed aging dormitories into state-of-the art living spaces that are designed to incorporate collaboration and education.

"We wanted people inside the residence halls to be in an intellectual environment and not just a living space," Coleman said during a Thursday interview.

Prior to launching the initiative, the university had not build a new dormitory or substantially renovated an existing one for more than 30 years.

The school announced Thursday plans to build a $185 million graduate student dormitory near South Division Street. Newman said Coleman championed the project, knowing full well that graduate dorms are rare in higher education.


Mary Sue Coleman and President Obama at the 2010 commencement.

White House

"[She understood] the need for it," Newman said. "It's not something universities are able to put aside money for and it's due to Mary Sue's leadership that we're now going to have this phenomenal legacy."

Student housing projects during Coleman's tenure.

  • Graduate Housing Dormitory: $185 million approved by regents Thurday
  • West Quadrangle: A $114.5 million renovation approved by regents
  • South Quadrange: A $60 million renovation is scheduled to begin this summer
  • Lawyer's club: Undergoing a $39 million renovation
  • East Quadrangle: Undergoing a $116 million renovation
  • Vera B. Baits Houses II : Underwent a $12 million renovation in 2012
  • Alice C. Lloyd Hall: Opened in 2012 after a $56 million renovation
  • Couzens Hall: Reopened in 2011 after $49 million renovation
  • North Quad: Opened in 2010 after $75 million construction project
  • Stockwell Hall: Reopened in 2009 after a $39.6 million renovation
  • Hill Dining Center: Reopened in 2008 after $21 million renovation
  • Mosher Jordan Hall: Reopened in 2008 after $44.1 million renovation

5. A stronger national profile

U-M is regularly ranked among the top public universities in the nation.

In the fall, U.S. News ranked U-M 29th nationally for undergraduate education and fourth among public institutions. The school also maintains a top spot in the 2012-13 QS World University rankings, which rate U-M 17th globally, and the Times Higher Education rankings, which place U-M 20th internationally.

"If you look at the last decade, all of our measures of academic quality have gone up. Our reputational ranking [is high]," Hanlon said. "The number of undergraduates each year and their quality has skyrocketed. We have risen to No. 2 in [federal] research funding."

Since 2002, enrollment has increased from 38,600 to 43,400 and freshmen applications have reached more than 43,000. The school accepts just over 40 percent of undergraduate applicants.

U-M is also considered one of the best colleges to work for, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education survey.

U-M's $7.7 billion endowment is the seventh-largest of any university in the country. The school conducts the second-most federally funded research of U.S universities. The federal government awarded U-M $825 million in research funds in fiscal 2012, amounting to nearly 67 percent of the school's overall $1.24 billion research budget that year.

"I left the university a better place than when I came," Coleman said "I was particularly concerned, with the support of the board, to make the experience better for students and for faculty."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

Mary Sue Coleman has been a tremendous asset and she will be missed by many. The rankings of the U-M still are up there for a public university, and whatever is good for the U-M is great for our community. Yes, there is a loss in the tax base, but imagine where we all would be were there no U-M here. Despite her well-deserved retirement, it is hoped we will continue to benefit for Ms. Coleman's knowledge and expertise. It's great she's remaining in Ann Arbor.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 1:58 a.m.

Well with the amount of pay she felt entitled to receive over the years, she should have millions put away for a lavish retirement. Seems most of her fundraising efforts were to cover her own rate of pay and fringe benefits.

C'est la vie

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 9:36 p.m.

Of less serious consequence, let's not forget the squelching of the collegial tradition of the Naked Run.

you can't handle the truth

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

Where is this one? Decided to sneak to Toledo under the cover of darkness in secret with Bill Martin to talk to and hire Rich Rodgriguez. And had no clue about his buyout from West Virigina. And they debacle that ensued.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

Mary Sue Coleman's legacy is to enrich the University by aggressively courting big donors and foreign students, especially from China. The result is a building boom and takeover of local real estate--good for UM, mixed for Ann Arbor as we've seen some jobs created but lost property tax revenue. The real Coleman legacy is to follow the worst corporate model by increasing the number of highly-paid faculty and administrators while slashing lower level jobs. Remember when being a professor was a middle-class job? Most full professors at UM now make six-figure salaries, as much as doctors and lawyers but work 8 months out of the year and set their own hours. This is a scandal at a public university in Michigan. We are losing our tax base and bleeding young professionals. The Coleman legacy has created a mind-set among faculty that they are all superstars who should be paid a star salary. They don't understand that real superstars actually generate revenue by selling things like movies or tickets. Mary Sue Coleman is finally leaving but her unfortunate legacy will live on.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 11:18 a.m.

Actually RoseBosun you'd be quite surprised about the recruiting efforts by other Universities and colleges going after UM professors. Departments can't compete with these outside offers any longer... the "stars" (as you call them) who enhance the education of UM students while improving medical procedures, creating new technology, and advancing our understanding of human behavior are leaving for even higher salaries and higher funding support. I applaud the UM for seeking out the brightest and the best... as they always have and always should.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

Super Security Sue's 70th birthday falls on Oct. 2 this year. That's a Wednesday. We can all still chip in for a Chucky Cheese birthday party for her!


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

Wonderful top 5, speaking of the number 5: I would like to submit that now that the self imposed separation between Mayce Edward Christopher, and The University of Michigan is nearly over, that Ms. Coleman's last and lasting legacy watermark should be to return the Fab 5 Banners to the Crisler Center. She has said in the past she did not believe she could do that if she wanted to. She can and she should want to. Its time it should be done. Univ. of Michigan, class of 1997! Go Blue!


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:40 p.m.

She did good things for the financial and physical health of the AA campus, but from the intellectual point of view, which is, after all, the core of the university, her tenure has been very dim. She seems to have worked hard to focus on the entrepreneurial mission, but at the expense of the traditional disciplines. Some may applaud her for this, I cannot.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:40 p.m.

Her main accomplishment: A bunch of rich people gave a lot of money to spend enlarging the university; it is maybe 20% larger or something. Elmer Fudd could have been President and I honestly don't think the result would have been different. Compare that to Hatcher doubling the size of the U without all the bazillionaires donations. "In 2009 Coleman made the final decision to purchase the 2.2-million-square-foot, 28-building Pfizer complex for a staggeringly low price of $108 million." I find it fascinating that she is ALWAYS mentioned where credit is to be given and M-I-A when it comes to scores of decisions over the years that people don't care for (like the $65 increase yesterday to pay for rebuilding the rec facilities --> she was excised right out of that story AS USUAL --> not the "final decision maker" there, you can bet your last dollar). All very deliberate. She reminds me so much of Jennifer Granholm in this regard.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

Hatcher should have been arrested for trying to turn UM into a factory, in the image of OSU. UM has kept the quality up, but the large undergraduate population makes it tough to get to competitive levels on yield and acceptance. Further, the large population makes it tough to keep student/teacher ratios and board scores at competitive levels. Hatcher was one of the worst things to happen to UM in its entire history.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

She's worked hard. I hope she enjoys a long and happy retirement.

Kai Petainen

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

Have you asked for a comment from Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) with respect to this? (she's a director there) Investor Relations website:

Jay Thomas

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:21 p.m.

She forbid employees from doing this kind of moonlighting while continuing to do it herself. Who wouldn't want an extra $250,000 a year? But what about leading by example and something called "ethics".


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Always have been suspect of this, considering it was a U-M start-up...and big money was made:

Dog Guy

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

Establishing close coordination and perfect harmony with Ann Arbor's mayor and council is certainly number six.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

Money changes everything. When you own the mayor and council, it is easy to call the tune.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

Let's review some of her accomplishments; 1. She was in charge during the cover up of child pornography at Mott's Children's Hospital. Her "internal investigation" was so flawed that the Regents took over the investigation themselves and took away from her all responsibility for disciplinary actions against those responsible. 2. She was in charge when the DPS Oversight committee had no elections for 10 years. 3. She was in charge while we had multiple short lived police chiefs, including Ken Magee, who was suspended and fired without public explanation and Greg O'Dell quit shortly after finding out about the child pornography case and committed suicide three weeks later. 4. She was in charge when more than 3,000 people were given lifetime trespass bans and only saw fit to revise that policy when faced with news stories and a threat from the ACLU to sue the University. 5. She was in charge and ignored reports from both the Faculty Grievance Committee and the DPS Oversight Committee told her that University officials and police had misbehaved in the firing and arrest of Dr. Borisov. That cost the University more than $750,000. 6. She was the only University President to press charges against the SOLE protesters against sweatship labor. 7. She was in charge during the Federal prosecutions around the Ed Martin basketball scandal 8. She hired Rich Rodriguea and was in charge during the events that lead to another NCAA investigation and sanctions. 9. When she arrived undergraduate tuition was $6.5 k (in state) and 20 k (out of state) and it is nearly double that today. 10. UM has fallen in the national rankings since she began her tenure. I could go on and on with her wonderful accomplishments. Her main contribution to the University was to destroy share governance with the faculty and students, increase secrecy and retaliation against dissident faculty and staff.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

@MjC- I what crazy would was he not fired? When they demand your badge and gun, its called being fired. His lawyer negotiated a settlement agreement to pay him 22 months salary and not come back. That is fired.


Sat, Apr 20, 2013 : 11:08 a.m.

Ken McGee wasn't fired - so get your facts straight. McGee is a good man who you clearly have never met.

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

Excellent summary of her true legacy, and character.

Basic Bob

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

Rich Rodriguez wasn't nearly as bad as the other 9 "accomplishments" on your list.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 4:42 p.m.

number 8 is unforgivable.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

"7. She was in charge during the Federal prosecutions around the Ed Martin basketball scandal" The Ed Martin scandal happened before her arrival.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

Regarding point 9. HER SALARY and that of her colleagues went up a similar amount. She is very good at increasing tuition which ends up in her pockets.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

Impressive run, and exceptional progress in five important areas.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 11:26 a.m.

6. Traveled to a seedy motel in Toledo with Bill Martin to hand Rich Rod the keys. sorry couldn't resist.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

Funny! I was about to post a comment which would have mentioned: "no one would dare criticize Coleman..." but you slipped one in. Congrats, you're a braver squirrel than I am. LOL!

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 10:26 a.m.

Solid Top 5, Kellie. Yesterday, I went down to campus to interview students about Coleman's announced retirement and everyone I spoke with had nice things to say, but couldn't exactly pinpoint what she has done at her time at U-M. I wish I had their emails so I could send them this! Although one girl did mention the open letter to President Obama on lowering tuition.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

"Where do you think the tuition increases during her years went? HINT HINT --> HER SALARY." Given that she has donated several raises back to the university and given that she and her husband made a donation of $500,000 to Michigan, I'd like to respectfully suggest that you are utterly clueless.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

Does it really surprise anyone that she wanted Obama to increase student funding? Where do you think the tuition increases during her years went? HINT HINT --> HER SALARY.


Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

What about the bio med building & life science complex's her first 'strike' for increasing research dollars. The Phizer complex was a no brainer, state of the art fully equiped, with no buyers on the horizon, again a no brainer. What about hiring of Dave Brandon? luring him away from Domino's - Huge! On another note why no stories about M-baseball? they are tied for first place in the Big and just sent Notre Dame limping back to South Bend- How about some love for them :)