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Ten Reasons Mary Sue Coleman is Killing It at the University of Michigan

Mary Sue Coleman is retiring as President of the University of Michigan after her current contract ends. I won’t lie and say that Mary Sue Coleman played a super active role in my time at the University. Aside from her monthly videos she sent out (which I may or may not be the only person who actually watched them) and the yearly, “Come to the presidents house, wait in a long line to talk to her, and eat free cookies and tea,” you don’t really see a large university president around campus. There was that one time my dad made my little sister and I take a picture with her at the honors convocation. That was embarrassing.

Looking back at her career however, does prove that even if I didn’t see Mary Sue doing great things, she definitely was – especially when comparing her time to other presidents before her.

In honor of her announced retirement here are 10 reasons why Mary Sue Coleman is killing it as President of the University of Michigan with some help from the News Wire Article.

1. She’s a Hippie (kind of), and So Is Her Family (kind of)

While it may not look like Mary Sue is a hippy (I mean she’s not completely, she’s got a reputation to uphold that includes quirky jewelry and old lady brooches), she is enough of one to pass. She went to Grinnell College for starters.

Hippies should always run the University of Michigan to avoid becoming too snobby and Ivy Leage-esque. It is also important that a liberal hippie be in charge in order to uphold the long time tradition of Ann Arbor Hash Bash, which is not sanctioned by the university but definitely requires cooperation.

Even after retirement, “Coleman said she and her husband, Kenneth, have purchased a home in Ann Arbor and will divide their time between Michigan and Colorado, where their son and his family live in Denver.” And if there’s any other place in the U.S. full of half-hippies, it’s Colorado.

2. She’s the First Female President of the University of Michigan

Mary Sue isn’t intimidated just because she’s short!

“The first woman to lead the university, Coleman was named president in 2002, as the state of Michigan entered one of its worst economic downturns in history. With the auto industry addressing massive layoffs and plant closings, Coleman championed the importance and value of U-M’s role in transforming the state’s economy from one rooted in manufacturing to a market robust in advanced technology, health sciences and alternative energy.”

But that didn’t stop her. Despite setting precedent and coming into a downtrodden situation, Mary Sue was like, “Don’t worry, I got this,” saying:

“Our impact must be broad, because the future of American competitiveness depends vitally on transforming the Midwest,” she told the campus community in 2007, as she prepared to undertake her second five-year term as president. “That means being a university that helps shape a strong Michigan economy, provides the best health care possible to citizens, offers exceptional regional campuses, and works with the K-12 system to increase the number of college-educated citizens—students who will be tomorrow’s decision-makers.”

3. She’s Doin’ It and Doin’ It Well

“Please – I know what I’m doing Young Grasshoppers”

“Coleman will enter her final year as president leading an institution ranked 12th globally and with the nation’s largest research budget for a public university.” BOOM. Need anything more be said?  

4. She’s Not Only the First Lady President, She’s One of the Longest

“Coleman is the fourth longest-serving president in U-M’s history. James B. Angell served 38 years, followed by Alexander G. Ruthven at 22 and Harlan H. Hatcher, 16.” Get it gurl.

5. She’s Not Racist

I mean, thank god.

“Coleman’s presidency also has been marked by an unflagging commitment to deepening the diversity of the student body, and ensuring that more African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and lower-income students receive what President Angell called “an uncommon education for the common man.”

“I always want it known that we are a university that is welcoming, nurturing and inspiring to all our faculty, staff and students. That means we absolutely must widen our doors so that individuals from all backgrounds can take advantage of what we have to offer. A great public university can do nothing less,” she told U-M faculty in 2005.

6. She Built a Lot of Stuff and Got Other People To Pay For It

The Michigan Difference? Yeah that was Mary Sue.

“Coleman led the Michigan Difference campaign that raised more than $3 billion, a record for philanthropy at the university.”

And with all that money we built a lot of stuff: “North Quad, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, Weill Hall, the Ross Business School complex, the School of Public Health expansion, the Law School’s South Hall and the latest iteration of historic Michigan Stadium—were borne by the Coleman administration.”

7. She Made the University of Michigan More Global

Get out of Michigan, see some sweet places. YOLO.

“Coleman’s legacy as president also includes a passport of international visits dedicated to extending learning and research opportunities for students and faculty, as well as strengthening ties with alumni throughout the world. As U-M president, she met with higher education leaders in China, Ghana, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Brazil.”

Which is probably why throughout my travels it has never been shocking to see someone wearing U of M apparel. Previous sightings include Venice, Italy during Carnivale; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Shanghai, China obviously.

8. She’s Generous! As in She Gave Lots of Her Own Money!

“With her husband, Coleman has been the most philanthropic president in U-M’s history. They have endowed two funds: the Mary Sue and Kenneth Coleman Endowed Rackham Graduate Fellowship Fund and the Mary Sue and Kenneth Coleman Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship Fund. They also established the Mary Sue and Kenneth Coleman Endowed Life Sciences Institute Lecture Fund.” Because A Greedy President is a Bad President.

9. She’s Not Just Peace-ing Out After Retirement

“Coleman, 69, said she intends to remain active by committing time to advocating at the national level for higher education and scientific research support and diversity. She also will serve on the advisory committee to the director of the National Institutes of Health and on the board of directors for Society for Science and the Public.”

10. There’s a Dominatrix Parody Involving Mary Sue and A Lot of Inappropriate Banter

So if you’re tired of looking at pictures of a sweet old lady. Here’s another side of the Prez you ain’t neva seen before. Also, sadly, or maybe awesomely, I know every single person in this video. That’s the #michigandifference.

Of course Mary Sue isn’t perfect, but she’s done some great things and deserves some credit.



  1. Alex B says

    Coleman exceeded many of the standards put before her admirably, but her record as a public servant is mixed at best:

    Kickbacks from Johnson & Johnson and covering up a rape do not a good president make:

      • hahah Oh believe me, I’m upset about Blimpy Burger. But a big university is a bit like a country in the sense the president isn’t responsible for everything. There are thousands of things that go on everyday. As for the rape incident, I didn’t know about it nor do I know details to comment. For Johnson and Johnson, she didn’t say she would refuse, the Medical School did. Whether it’s a conflict of interest or not, it didn’t effect my school experience. I would say she overall made it a better school versus a worse one.

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