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Mary Sue Coleman - Sept 2015 The Association of American Universities (AAU) recently announced the appointment of Mary Sue Coleman, a former president of the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa, as its new president, effective June 1, 2016. Coleman, a national leader on higher education and science issues, served as chair of the association in 2011-12.

Hunter Rawlings informed the AAU board of directors in May 2015 that he would retire as AAU president when his contract expired at the end of May 2016. He had served as AAU president since 2011. But on March 24, Cornell University announced that Rawlings would serve as the university's interim president, effective April 25, in the wake of the untimely death of President Elizabeth Garrett.

Coleman, who retired as University of Michigan president in 2014 after serving for 12 years, co-chairs the Lincoln Project, an initiative of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences to support public research universities. She also serves on the board of trustees of the Society for Science & the Public. She is a national spokesperson on the educational value of affirmative action and diverse perspectives in the classroom.  

AAU board chair Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, called Coleman “the ideal person to lead AAU.”

“During her tenure at both Iowa and the University of Michigan, Mary Sue was universally regarded as one of the very best presidents in the country,” Gutmann said. “In her strong and sustained university leadership, she has demonstrated the essential role of higher education in the lives of individuals and our society and world. She also knows AAU well, having served previously as Board Chair. I cannot imagine anyone better suited than Mary Sue to advance the research agenda that is at the center of AAU’s mission and that is also absolutely critical to the future of our nation.”

During her tenure at Michigan, Coleman helped launch the Obama Administration’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, and in 2010, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke named her co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  

Under her leadership, the University of Michigan launched and expanded academic partnerships with universities in China, Ghana, South Africa, Brazil and India. She also announced a groundbreaking partnership between the University and Google to digitize the text of the University’s 7-million-volume library.

“Hunter Rawlings has done an exceptional job as AAU president in advancing our collective impact as research institutions,” Coleman said. “I am eager to continue the work of elevating the American research university as essential to our nation’s prosperity, security, and wellbeing.”

Gutmann also praised Rawlings. “Mary Sue will succeed someone who is doing extraordinary work for AAU,” she said. “Hunter Rawlings is a wise and forceful voice for all that is best about American higher education. Replacing him is no small task, but we have found someone eminently worthy of that charge in Mary Sue Coleman.”

Coleman led the University of Iowa from 1995 to 2002. She served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico after serving as vice chancellor for research and graduate education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a member of the biochemistry faculty at the University of Kentucky for 19 years.

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

“I am thrilled that I will be leaving AAU in the capable hands of Mary Sue Coleman,” said Rawlings. “She has 20 years’ experience leading two wonderful AAU universities. But more than that, she has demonstrated courage and national leadership on some of the most important issues facing U.S. higher education, from sustaining diversity in the classroom to making research universities an even greater force for educational and economic progress.”

AAU is an association of 60 U.S. and two Canadian public and private research universities. It focuses on issues such as funding for research, research policy issues, and graduate and undergraduate education. AAU member universities are on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship, and solutions that contribute to the nation's economy, security, and wellbeing. AAU’s 60 U.S. universities award nearly one-half of all U.S. doctoral degrees and 55 percent of those in STEM fields.

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Board of Directors

The 11-member Board (1) proposes policy positions for consideration by the membership of the association at its meetings, (2) approves the budgets of the association, (3) works with the AAU President and Washington office staff to carry out the association’s agenda, and (4) functions for and on behalf of member universities between their regular meetings.

Lou Anna K. Simon
President, Michigan State University – AAU Chair

David W. Leebron
President, Rice University – AAU Vice Chair

Amy Gutmann
President, University of Pennsylvania – AAU Past Chair

Michael V. Drake
President, The Ohio State University

John L. Hennessy
President, Stanford University

G. P. "Bud" Peterson
President, Georgia Institute of Technology

L. Rafael Reif,
President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Barbara R. Snyder
President, Case Western Reserve University

Teresa A. Sullivan
President, University of Virginia

Satish K. Tripathi
President, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

M. Matthew Owens 
Interim President, Association of American Universities – ex-officio