For many, Thursday marked the first and possibly last time they will personally interact with University President Mary Sue Coleman, who will retire in July.

Hundreds of students lined up along South University Avenue to meet Coleman at her annual open house. Attendees were greeted by a beaming Coleman and posed for pictures with her in the backyard of the historic University-owned President’s House, behind the Hatcher Graduate Library.

After a brief meeting with Coleman, students snacked on complimentary cookies, fruit and apple cider and left their mark at the President’s House by signing a guest book.

In April, Coleman announced her intention to retire at the end of her term in July 2014 — making this her last open house. In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the event, Coleman said although she would have preferred to have a longer time to talk with each student she met, she always looks forward to the event.

“We’ll have other opportunities to (meet students) throughout the year as well because it’s really important for me to be able to interact with the students — and I love that,” Coleman said. “That’s the most fun part of this job.”

As in past years, Coleman and E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, will continue to host fireside chats during the fall semester to engage with individual students. The University randomly selects a diverse group of undergraduates and graduates each month for an informal question-and-answer period with the two administrators.

Although students did not line up to meet her specifically, Harper made her way down the queue for Coleman, tray in hand, offering cookies to those waiting. The 30-minute wait to greet Coleman gave her ample time to talk with students about their experiences at the University. Harper is responsible for overseeing a host of units, ranging from Housing to coordinating with the University Health Service and managing the Unions and recreational centers.

Harper said Coleman will strive to spend as much time with students as possible before the end of her tenure. With a target of $1 billion for financial aid initiatives in the upcoming capital campaign, and more than $1 billion spent on student life facilities during her presidency, Harper said Coleman has demonstrated an immense commitment to the quality of student life at the University.

“She’s really been a president that has a heart for students, and I think that’s what we’re seeing,” Harper said. “She loves them, and they love her.”

Business senior Lindsey Levinson and LSA senior Pamela Safirstein waited in the uncharacteristic September heat to meet Coleman for the first and probably last time, since, as Levinson put it, she “will be graduating with us.”

“She’s done great things for this school and has been very supportive of all different types of activities, from Ross and the Athletics Department, to making the school more environmentally friendly,” Safirstein said.

While Levinson and Safirstein spent their college careers under Coleman’s leadership, Rackham student Jenny Shay said she hoped to introduce herself to Coleman as a first-year graduate student. Although Shay is new to campus, she researched Coleman’s work and was impressed — especially with how Coleman handled the 2003 affirmative action cases before the Supreme Court.

“I think opening her home to everybody is great,” Shay said. “She seems to be really concerned about the students and ensuring that Michigan is a progressive leader in how it treats its students.”

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