IU President Thomas Ehrlich

The finding aid for the presidential records of former Indiana University president, Thomas Ehrlich (1987-1994), is now available!

President Ehrlich at the 1989 Commencement.
President Ehrlich at the 1989 Commencement.

Thomas Ehrlich was born on March 4, 1934 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Ehrlich graduated from Harvard College in 1956 and from Harvard Law School in 1959.  Before his appointment at IU, he worked as a lawyer before entering academia, serving as a professor and dean of the law school at Stanford University and later provost and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He also held two presidential appointments, serving as the first president of the Legal Services Corporation and the first director of the International Development Cooperation Agency.

On August 1, 1987, Ehrlich became the fifteenth president of Indiana University.  He served in this post for seven years, departing with the title of President Emeritus in 1994.

The financial troubles of the early 1990s led to many legislative battles during Ehrlich’s tenure.  In order to demonstrate to Indiana legislators the importance of funding for public universities, Ehrlich and his wife, Ellen, held weekly dinners at Lilly House in Indianapolis when the state legislature was in session. Ehrlich also implemented Legislative Days, in which legislators were invited to tour the Indiana University campus, and attend a meal and a basketball game.  He successfully helped secure state funding for the renovation of three buildings in the Old Crescent as well as the $18 million Multi-Campus Technology Project.

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Ehrlich chats with Judith Palmer and Pat Kiely on Legislator Day in November of 1987.

Ehrlich was also responsible for initiating and hosting a television series called “Pro & Con.” The half hour program featured Ehrlich and select IU faculty members discussing controversial issues of concern to the public, ranging from topics such as the death penalty and animal research to contemporary music and teaching. The show was taped at the WTIU facilities in Bloomington and broadcast during the spring and summer months by nearly all of the PBS stations in Indiana, with stations in states such as California, Florida, and Virginia electing to air the program as well. “Pro & Con” continued well after Ehrlich’s retirement, continuing through the tenure of his successor, Myles Brand (1994-2002).

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In a Herald Times article written shortly before he left IU, Ehrlich commented that he felt that among his greatest achievements as president had been the academic agenda and long-term planning efforts aimed at increasing academic expectations, raising overall retention rates, especially among minority students, and improving teaching, research, and service at IU.

When Ehrlich left Indiana University in 1994, it was in order to return to teaching and to spend more time with his family.  He and his wife moved to California where he was Distinguished Scholar at California State University and taught at San Francisco State University. He then spent ten years as the Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  Ehrlich has been a visiting professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education since 2009.

If you’re interested in learning more about IU President Thomas Ehrlich, feel free to browse the finding aid for his records or speeches. Contact the Archives for access or with questions!