Students, colleagues and friends of University President Lee Bollinger yesterday praised his accomplishments and lamented the departure of the outgoing chief executive and his wife, Jean Magnano Bollinger.

Paul Wong
Lee Bollinger and his wife, Jean, look over a photo album of Bollinger”s four-year tenure as University president at a reception in honor of him yesterday at the Michigan Union. Regent Rebecca McGowan presented the Bollingers with the album and a piece of

“There is a great deal of gratitude toward and affection for Lee and Jean, and we wish them well,” said English Prof. Ralph Williams, who spoke at the first of a pair of receptions at the Michigan Union. “You have ennobled the imaginations of what we might be.”

The ceremony, in which a plaque commemorating Bollinger as the University”s 12th president was unveiled, was open to students. A reception which followed in the Clements Library was restricted to faculty and staff.

Bollinger, for his part, expressed his own admiration for students.

“I want to wrap you all and take you with us,” he said. He also took time to thank his staff and co-workers and especially his wife for hard work and loyalty during his four years as president.

Bollinger is stepping down Dec. 31 to become president of Columbia University, where he attended law school.

State Rep. Chris Kolb presented Bollinger with a plaque recognizing his achievements on behalf of the state House of Representatives.

Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) commended Bollinger for “his commitment to freedom of speech and his recognition that diversity and affirmative action is something go to battle over.”

Other speakers noted Bollinger”s commitment to the arts and life sciences.

Michael Boyd, associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, spoke on the quality of the partnership between the University and the RSC that formed under Bollinger”s leadership. Bollinger is a member of the company”s board of directors.

“It is very unusual that a president of a university should take such personal responsibility for such a major patronage in the arts,” Boyd said. “It certainly brought change in a good way to the RSC. It”s started us on a journey of collaboration with North America.”

Boyd also announced that he plans to begin teaching drama and English at the University next year as a result of the partnership.

Jean Bollinger, an artist who has a studio in Dexter, spoke before her husband about how difficult it will be to leave friends in Ann Arbor, the city she has called home for the last 27 years.

“One has very strong feelings about the University and Ann Arbor, because we”ve had so many life experiences here,” she said. “The pleasure for me has been living in the middle of the campus.”

LSA sophomore Mitchell Klein said he is disappointed that he missed the opportunity to take Bollinger”s political science class on freedom of speech and the press. Bollinger is a renowned First Amendment scholar.

“I sat through his class last week,” said Klein, who is considering applying to law school after graduation. “He turned on my passion for political science once again.”

Highlighting projects he hoped to see continued after his departure, Bollinger said he is optimistic about architectural plans for soon-to-be-built buildings around campus, adding that “if they are dull buildings, there will be dull education.”

He also said he will miss a sense of community unparalleled at any other institution.

“Every time I see the U of M symbol on the side of a truck or car, I know that I”m going to wave because I know they are going to wave at me. How many institutions can you say that about?” he asked.

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