University General Counsel Marvin Krislov said he recalls being approached by the president of the University of Iowa, Mary Sue Coleman, after he gave a talk on diversity and affirmative reaction a few years ago.

“I remember her coming up to me and talking to me and being very supportive and positive,” Krislov said of Coleman, the University of Michigan’s newly elected president.

Krislov’s first impressions were reinforced when he met Coleman again and listened to her accept the nomination offered by the University Board of Regents yesterday.

“She strikes me as a very warm, positive person who will take Michigan by storm,” he said.

Coleman’s dedication to diversity is important for an institution that has long placed an emphasis on the same thing, Krislov said.

The University’s first female president may likely oversee a date with the U.S. Supreme Court if the court agrees to hear one or both of the lawsuits challenging the University’s use of race as a factor in admissions. Both cases were heard by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in December. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of the University in the case challenging the University’s Law School, but the plaintiff is expected to appeal the decision to the high court.

“I am delighted with her selection,” said University Vice President for Communications Lisa Rudgers, who worked closely with Coleman in preparing for yesterday’s press conference, held shortly after she officially agreed to accept her new position.

“I think she will be a very strong voice for public education and the life sciences,” Rudgers added.

Coleman has a background in biochemistry, and the University of Iowa increased its funding for research by more than $100 million during her seven-year tenure. One of the University of Michigan’s larger projects in recent years has been the development of the Life Sciences Initiative.

“I was impressed with her deep passion and commitment to the role of a great public university in higher education,” said Cynthia Wilbanks, University vice president for government relations. Wilbanks also mentioned Coleman’s enthusiasm for fundraising as an asset.

University of Iowa Regent Sue Neiland (Sioux City) said Tuesday night that Coleman did a “phenomenal” job raising money for the school and that she “is leading the university through the most financial difficult times
in its history.”

“She has been a phenomenal fund raiser and a huge amount of money has been raised on her watch,” Neiland said, adding that Coleman has been known to make self-sacrifices to help the school. “For example … we raised her salary to be equal to that of a new president in our system and she donated her increase in salary to the University Foundation.”

Neiland said the salary increase had been upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. As part of her agreement with the University of Michigan, Coleman will earn $475,000 a year, an amount that pales the yearly earnings of former University President Lee Bollinger, who earned approximately $325,000 a year. The amount is also a substantial increase from her $200,000-a-year paycheck she received from Iowa.

Several executive officers, including interim President B. Joseph White and interim Provost Paul Courant, said they will begin discussing University issues — which would include funding, the University’s investigation of Detroit auto worker Ed Martin and the admissions lawsuits — and information with Coleman during the next two months.

Coleman has the opportunity to fill three of the nine executive vice presidential positions in addition to the provost position. The provost position has been vacant since last summer, when Nancy Cantor left to become chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Two executive officers accepted offers from former University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger to join his executive board at Columbia University. Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Gil Omenn announced he will step down from his post to concentrate on research. And due to the future departure of LSA Dean Shirley Neuman, who accepted the position of provost at the University of Toronto effective July 1, the College of Literature, Science and the Arts is also seeking permanent leadership.

Gary Krenz, special counsel to the president, said it is too early to tell when searches will begin to fill the vacant positions. “Right now I think we’re in celebration mode,” he said.

However, Coleman said filling in the vacant positions will be a “very high priority” for her as soon as she arrives at the University.

Although she said she was impressed by many of the administrators she has met here, she said she will still conduct searches for all the positions that are currently held by people only temporarily.

“We have a process that we must go through,” she said.

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