The goodbyes have begun.
To thank University President Mary Sue Coleman for 12 years of presidential service, the University’s executive officers and a few hundred students, faculty, staff and community members welcomed Coleman to a thank you reception Friday afternoon in the Michigan Union’s Rogel Ballroom.
The celebration was simple: a student a cappella group greeted guests in the foyer; the ballroom was packed, with around 400 attendees, ranging from students to administrators; guest books to sign under giant balloons; refreshment tables with sparkling citrus punch and dining hall cookies.
After a series of introductions, Coleman approached the stage with a booming applause. She spoke briefly with husband Kenneth Coleman by her side, as a tribute to all the support he has given to her behind the scenes. She confided that he sometimes calls her by the nickname “13.”
“He says I’m 13 because I’m the 13th president,” Coleman said.
She also thanked her staff in the Office of the President by name and expressed optimism in Schlissel’s ability to carry on the presidency.
“Rest assured number 14 — Mark Schlissel — will take the University to new heights while Ken and I cheer from the sidelines and explore Ann Arbor,” Coleman said.
Actor Jeff Daniels, known for his work in ‘The Newsroom’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ served as the spirited master of ceremonies for the event, providing jokes and detailing Coleman’s impact on the University.
“A couple days in preparation for today’s reception I got out my dictionary and looked up Mary Sue Coleman,” Daniels said, as laughs followed from the crowd. “She was defined as someone with expert leadership qualities, dogged determination, and an unwillingness to take no for an answer.”
Daniels spoke of his first interaction with Coleman, taking place on the set of Dumb and Dumber. He said Coleman told him she should play his mother in the movie’s sequel.
“At that point, a very large security guard came up and said, ‘Jeff, is this woman bothering you?’ Before I could say a word she said, ‘I’m Mary Sue Coleman, I’m his mother,’” he said.
Laughter filled the ballroom and Daniels tied the joke up with a punch: “The security guard looks at me and says, ‘Jeff, is that true?’ and I look down at this fireball of commitment and confidence and what looked like the eyes of a crazy person and said, ‘No, she’s not my mother, but one day she is going to be the president of the University of Michigan,” Daniels said. “True story.”
A video followed with interviews by administrators, faculty, staff and students that highlighted Coleman’s character and contributions to the University. E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, narrated the first segment of the film.
“Universities are magical places,” she said. “The values and principles that the students and faculty and staff embody and try to live out as they do their work I think is part of the magic. Their commitment to the purpose and mission I think is part of that magic. And in this place it has a long history of trying to be the leader and best when there is no path that’s clear, even when no one else is doing it. We talk a lot about there is some magic here. And I think Mary Sue has been part of that magic.”
Another portion of the film showed two students recounting their shock after learning Coleman was their faculty mentor.
“I was in complete shock,” one of the students said. “I was really excited that I could get a real interaction with the president of the University.”
Various interviews touched on Coleman’s commitment to engaged education, entrepreneurship, issues of diversity, sustainability, arts and fundraising, as well as her visibility on campus, arts, engagement with the staff and accomplishments in transforming the physical landscape of the University’s campus.
President Barack Obama made a brief appearance in a clip from his visit to campus as commencement speaker in 2009.
Coleman’s voice concluded the video, as she spun the cube in front of the Fleming Administration Building.
“For today, goodbye. For tomorrow, good luck. Forever Go Blue,” she said.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article did not give the full title of President Coleman. Her full title is University President Mary Sue Coleman.