The steel skeleton of a building between the Hill and Central Campus is evidence of the Life Sciences Institute”s early construction, the biggest initiative of University President Lee Bollinger”s tenure.
With Bollinger”s acceptance of the Columbia University presidency, the initiative will now need to function without the fervent support from its founder as it begins to take physical shape.
LSI co-Director Jack Dixon said Bollinger played “a pivotal role” and was “an ardent proponent” of both the Life Sciences Initiative and the Life Sciences Institute. He said the president”s enthusiasm will be missed, but that the loss won”t be paralyzing.
“His departure will obviously take a little air out the balloon, because he was such a strong supporter of it,” Dixon said. “But I don”t think it will change our course.”
He added that the next University president will have an important role in the LSI”s future.
“We answer to the president, so the president will be a key player,” he said. “But we”re far enough along to not get sidetracked.”
University Law Prof. Richard Lempert, head of the LSI”s Values and Ethics commission, said he expects the next president to show support for the LSI.
“Although it depends on the person selected, of course, I expect the person who replaces Lee will see how the LSI is becoming a major force at the University,” Lempert said.
University Regent Larry Deitch (D-Bloomfield Hills) said the LSI never would have happened without Bollinger”s advocacy.
“It was his idea,” Deitch said last spring. “He knew how important science was, that research into science was kind of a new frontier, akin to computers and technology a few years ago.”
Lempert noted how Bollinger has been a “driving force” behind the LSI.
“I think he was crucial in getting the directors to agree to serve,” Lempert said, adding that Bollinger traveled across the nation to meet with leading life science researchers to “pick their brains and make all sorts of connections.”
Deitch added that he was surprised at Bollinger”s focus on the LSI, given the president”s background in law and humanities.
Dixon echoed Deitch”s observation.
“I give him a great deal of credit,” Dixon said. “His background is in law, but he educated himself in a great way.”
Dixon said Bollinger, along with other University administrators including former Provost Nancy Cantor and Vice-President for Medical Affairs Gil Omenn, met widely with University faculty and researchers to focus the LSI effort.
Bollinger, at a fireside chat with University students last winter, said he looks forward to the LSI”s physical and nonphysical transformations of the campus.
“We hired the best architects in the world,” Bollinger said, “And I believe the humanistic implications of this are incredible. I mean this in every dimension.”