In December of 1968, the Duderstadts moved from Southern California to Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a hot, sunny day in Pasadena – a Santa Ana condition, in fact – when we loaded our furniture and our VW on a moving van. We packed up our kids, who had never even seen snow, much less Michigan, and flew to Detroit, arriving in subzero cold and heavy snow. Despite the climatic shock, we found ourselves very much at home, both in Ann Arbor and at the University of Michigan. So much so, that we have resisted occasional temptations to move west again to remain in Ann Arbor. We have long considered ourselves Michiganders, maize and blue to the core.
For more than three decades, we have enjoyed being members of the Michigan family, serving in a variety of roles and seeing the University and its surrounding community from an array of perspectives. From the academic perspective, Jim rose through the ranks as a faculty member in Engineering. He became involved in broader campus issues as a young turk, a campus politician actively engaged in faculty governance. He finally descended through the various levels of the inferno of academic administration: dean, provost, and finally president of the University.
Anne, the other member of the Duderstadt team, rose even more rapidly to leadership roles in the University community: first as chair of the Faculty Women's Club Newcomers groups, then later as president of the entire Faculty Women’s Club organization; as a member of other campus and community groups; as "deanette", "provostess", and "first lady" of the University, and as institutional advancement officer, managing hundreds of events, several major facilities, and hosting thousands of faculty, students, alumni, and guests of the University.
We both enjoyed the experience of raising a family in Ann Arbor and within the University community. Although born as California girls in Pasadena, our daughters grew up in Ann Arbor. They were infected with the Ann Arbor syndrome of over involvement in activities ranging from music and theater to swim clubs and gymnastics teams to high school athletics and college admissions pressures. We even finally managed to become Michigan parents, as both the Duderstadt daughters eventually returned to the University for advanced degrees.
We began our years in Ann Arbor in University Family Housing and returned again to University housing some twenty years later, this time to reside in the President's House. For over three decades we have experienced and served the University in almost every way imaginable. Unlike most university presidents, we decided after our presidential role that we would remain at Michigan, returning to the faculty and the community. We would continue to serve as best we could–if only as ghosts of the University past.
This latter decision was unusual in higher education. Most university presidents are itinerant–they move from university to university as they progress through the academic and administrative ranks, and usually leave the institution when they step down as president. The two of us were unusual not only in spending our entire careers at a single university, but in being determined to remain at our university following our service in the presidency. In a sense, we regarded the Michigan presidency as yet another University assignment, drawing us temporarily away from our long-standing role as members of the Michigan faculty and Ann Arbor community. We were determined to return to these earlier roles, although there have been times when this has not been easy.
In part for the record, in part for our family, and in part just for our personal catharsis, we have sought to chronicle our journey into the depths of academic administration and our escape back again to the womb of faculty life. Although many of our experiences were characterized by the expected degree of seriousness and solemnity, we have chosen to describe them in a more humorous tone. We certainly hope that the reader will excuse this spirit of humor, amusement, and occasional wonder. We certainly do not intend any disrespect, either for the University we have served for so long or the hundreds–indeed thousands–of people who have made similar commitments to Michigan. Rather, we prefer to view our experiences, both good and bad, both successes and failures, through the rose-colored glasses of humor and good intentions. Besides, this perspective seems to help in making sense out of the complex array of experiences and happenings characterizing a modern university presidency.
The two of us view our presidency of the University very much as a team experience. Indeed, we, like most other couples thrust into these complex roles, find it difficult to imagine how the myriad roles and responsibilities could be addressed by a single individual. To be sure, each of our roles was different, yet both were comparable in challenge, responsibility, and importance. We have reflected this team approach in this book, adopting a third-person narrative to best convey our joint perspective.
We regard the opportunity to serve in the presidency of the University of Michigan as a great privilege. To be sure, this is not the easiest job in academe. It can be complex, confusing, and frustrating at times. The wear and tear of being on-call all the time, of defending the institution against its foes–and sometimes even its friends–of facing the challenges and responsibilities of the flagship of public higher education in America, all take their toll. Yet, as a former dean at the University put it, there are very few institutions in our society today worthy of total loyalty and support, and Michigan is one of them. (Actually, we don’t remember just which of our deans said this, since he or she is probably long gone from the University.)
Beyond the privilege of serving a great university, perhaps the most rewarding and satisfying aspect of our presidency was to join with the remarkable, talented, and dedicated people who work so hard to keep Michigan among "the leaders and best". Michigan both requires and attracts great leadership at all levels, among faculty, students, staff, and alumni. It was a rare privilege to be able to work with these talented people. They deserve not only our deep gratitude and appreciation, but the thanks and respect of all who hold the University of Michigan dear.
Beyond the leadership team, there is another group deserving of particular mention. Few among the faculty, students, or alumni of the University realize the degree to which a great university depends on the talents and dedication of its staff. Although the students and faculty comprise the academic core and determine the reputation of a university, frequently it is the selfless and dedicated efforts of staff who create the environment for excellence. They are the ones who sustain the institution through good times and bad, and who provide its continuity and tradition, as more visible academic members change.
In our years in the presidency, we came to sense the great dedication and pride that staff had toward the University of Michigan. We also came to appreciate their remarkable talents and skill in keeping what is certainly the most complex academic institution in the world moving smoothly ahead. We found that in many ways the staff, because of their roles across the campus and their long-term perspective, have a better understanding of what the University of Michigan is really all about than most of our students–and many of our faculty–who are here only for a relatively short period. In fact, after a decade in the Central Administration in the roles as provost and president, we both came to identify in many ways most closely with staff. Like them, we were not pursuing our personal goals or furthering our academic discipline, rather we were serving the University, in whatever way it required.
Hence, it is particularly important to recognize the remarkable team of staff who supported the president, and without whom, University progress would be quite impossible:
The Presidential Team
The Office of the President
Nona Mustard, Executive Secretary to the President
The President's House and Inglis House
Barbara Johnson, Manager of Presidential Facilities and Events
The Plant Department Team
Jack Weidenbach, Associate Vice President
Computer Support Team
The Duderstadt Family Team
Susan Duderstadt and John Iskander
Just one final comment. Anyone who has ever attended the University of Michigan or taught in its classrooms or served on its behalf, understands well that there is something quite magical about this place. It not only gets in your blood; it seemes to modify even your DNA.
As we approached the final months of the Duderstadt presidency and looked back with pride and gratitude at the great effort and accomplishments of our faculty and staff over the past decade, we also came to realize something very important. To be sure, there is much of the Duderstadts in the University of Michigan today, as one might expect after 30 years of toiling in its vineyards. But there is probably even more of the University of Michigan in the Duderstadts.
As we stepped aside from our presidency, we realized we were not stepping aside from our love or loyalty or our dedication to the University of Michigan. We would remain fiercely loyal members of the Michigan family, continuing to serve in whatever way we could.