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President's Perspective

  • Author:
    M. Peter McPherson
  • Published:
    Fall 2004

        In my final President’s Perspective, I want to thank all of you for your support, counsel, and advocacy for our wonderful university. These past 11 years have reinforced an already held belief that Michigan State is not only a great university, but a caring and responsive one.  Indeed, we “advance knowledge and transform lives” throughout the world in truly remarkable ways—we always have, and we always will.

        I leave the presidency as Spartans worldwide celebrate our sesquicentennial.  With each event, with each ceremony, with each retrospective, one reason we remain the nation’s pioneer and pioneering land-grant university becomes obvious:  We follow in the footsteps of legends.  From great scientists to great teachers, from great faculty to great students, from those who created new knowledge to those who globally applied that knowledge, from visionaries to pragmatists, we have been led, in action and in example, by the best.

        Earlier this fall, the MSU family came together to celebrate, honor, and give thanks for our heritage. On September 17 we dedicated the statue of John Hannah, whose presidency from 1941 to 1969 is regarded as historic not only on the banks of the Red Cedar, but throughout all of higher education.

On the eve of World War II, John Hannah became president of a college already considered a successful “grand experiment.”  But he transformed that well-regarded regional college into a renowned global university, successfully conducting many “grand experiments” of his own—from naming higher education’s first dean of international programs to building the largest campus residence hall system, from bringing the National Superconducting Cyclotron to campus to personally recruiting highly sought-after young faculty who became internationally renowned scholars at John Hannah’s MSC and MSU.  As I said on that Friday morning, “John Hannah saw the future. And he led us there.”

       The statue of John Hannah captures his spirit, and it captures the spirit of MSU.  As depicted in the statue, John Hannah is not standing still—he’s on the move.  Just like his beloved university.

       Hannah’s on-the-move statue calls us to follow him.  His vision, his values, his example, and his leadership are part of our present and our future, just as they are part of our glorious past. John Hannah continues to lead MSU, and generations to come will follow.

        As Joanne and I prepare to leave a place, a time, and people that truly have transformed our lives, we know that MSU’s first 150 years are a prelude to even greater accomplishments. And we are very grateful for a university that values its heritage and traditions.  What—and who—made MSU great, will keep MSU great.

As John Hannah so often said, “Only people are important.”   


Peter McPherson

President, Michigan State University