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Development experts cheer McRobbie appointment

March 1, 2007

The anticipated selection today of Michael McRobbie as the next president of Indiana University is being greeted enthusiastically by Indiana economic development experts.

McRobbie, interim provost of Indiana University’s Bloomington campus and vice president for academic affairs, is expected to maintain a higher profile and act more aggressively than outgoing Adam Herbert to help build the state’s economy.

Trustees are meeting at 4 p.m. to vote. The announcement is slated for an hour later.

IBJ reported Saturday that trustees had largely narrowed their search to McRobbie and Ora Pescovitz, executive associate dean for research affairs at the IU School of Medicine and CEO of Riley Hospital for Children.

Selecting McRobbie will send a strong message globally that the school plans an increasingly active role in economic development, said Tom Miller, president of Thomas P. Miller & Associates, a Greenfield economic development consulting firm.

Miller, who knows McRobbie through board stints at the statewide technology trade group now called Techpoint, said McRobbie already has been instrumental in a number of efforts around the state.

“[McRobbie] will be excellent in increasing the school’s visibility,” said Miller, something IU officials have said it needs to do. “He’s extremely well-respected internationally, as well as nationally.”

He’ll also be more visible and approachable than Herbert, Miller predicted. “He’s very open to new ideas and engaging in dialogue.”

Miller’s sentiments were echoed by Dan Theobald, who has held several economic development posts in central Indiana and now is executive director of Shelby County Development Corp.

“I have high hopes for him,” Theobald said. “I think he’s going to be very visible. That would be a major plus for IU.”

Given McRobbie’s technology and research background, he’ll also boost the state’s life science initiative, Theobald predicted.

In addition, McRobbie and Purdue University President Martin Jischke will work well together, said Theobald.

That relationship is likely to continue with whomever Purdue chooses to succeed Jischke, who is retiring June 30.

“To make Indiana whole, IU and Purdue’s new presidents will have a lot to do together,” Theobald said. “They’re not competing. This isn’t basketball.”

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