He may be called "Mayor Mike" now, but in the world of academia his name will forever be attached to Johns Hopkins.
To recognize all that he has done for the university, more than 800 invited guests paid a formal tribute to Michael Bloomberg, the departing chairman of the board of trustees, at a gala dinner on May 4. The event also served to kick off The Johns Hopkins Campaign: Knowledge for the World, the university and health system's ambitious $2 billion fund-raising effort.
The dinner, held at Homewood's Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center, marked the official last day of Bloomberg's six-year term as chairman. He was succeeded on May 5 by Raymond A. "Chip" Mason, chairman, president and CEO of Legg Mason Inc. and a trustee of the university since 1987. (See story in this issue.)
Following an introduction by President William R. Brody, New York's new mayor and former Hopkins undergraduate was presented with a farewell gift, a drawing by legendary and now 99-year-old caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, of an academic-robed Bloomberg standing in front of Gilman Hall.
"Mike, we believe that Al Hirschfeld found out what we already knew, that your heart belongs to Hopkins," said Brody, who earlier had commented that the artist had looked at hundreds of photos of Bloomberg taken at both his alma mater and in New York City before deciding on how to depict him. "You will certainly be on campus less, now that your term as chairman has ended. But we know that Hopkins will always be a tremendous part of your life. And that you'll always be a part of Johns Hopkins--our history and our future."
He has certainly left his mark. In a tribute video shown to those gathered at the gala, Brody said that the Bloomberg years should be looked back on as a "transforming era in the history of Johns Hopkins."
Under Bloomberg's leadership, Brody said, there has been tremendous progress at Hopkins in academics, research and medical care. Specifically, he pointed to the addition of new academic centers, both in Baltimore and abroad, new medical research and care facilities and the creation of master plans that have begun the transformation of the Homewood, East Baltimore and Peabody campuses. Brody said that Bloomberg has helped "move everything up a notch in terms of our competitiveness and attractiveness."
Bloomberg had been head of the trustees since July 1, 1996, and previously was named chairman of the Johns Hopkins Initiative fund-raising campaign, the most successful effort of its kind at Hopkins to date. The initiative, completed in June 2000, raised $1.52 billion. The founder of Bloomberg L.P., a worldwide news and financial information company, he was elected to the board of trustees in 1987.
Through his leadership and philanthropy, Bloomberg has blanketed the university with support, said those who came out to honor him.
In 1984, he donated $1 million to Arts and Sciences to endow the Charlotte Bloomberg Professorship in the Humanities in honor of his mother. He gave another $5 million to Arts and Sciences in 1988, designated by Hopkins for the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy.
In 1998, he completed a $100 million commitment to the university, at that time the largest in Hopkins' history, that included gifts to every academic division, the libraries and Johns Hopkins Medicine. The two largest portions of his gift were $30 million for financial aid--primarily for full-time undergraduates in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering --and $35 million to the School of Public Health. In spring 2001, the latter was renamed the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in recognition of his advocacy and financial support.
To date, he has given more than $107.5 million to Johns Hopkins. His first gift was $5, given in 1964, the year he graduated from Hopkins with a degree in electrical engineering.
Mason, in his remarks at the dinner, said, "Mike, you have changed Johns Hopkins in many, many ways. You have set a high standard for the future. I want you to know that it is an honor and privilege for me to follow you as chairman of the board."
The event featured a video tribute to Bloomberg, which included personal anecdotes and reflections from President Brody, university deans and trustees, one of his college roommates and the man-of-the-hour's own mother, Charlotte. Wedged in between heavy doses of praise for all he has done for Hopkins were good-natured jabs at Bloomberg, a self-proclaimed "C" student.
"Some of his teachers liked him a great deal," Charlotte Bloomberg said in the video. "His French teacher thought he was stupid."
Ilene Busch-Vishniac, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering, said, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, "He is a wonderful role model for our students, with one exception: We'd like our students to be encouraged to do better in their grades."
Bloomberg came to the podium and promptly acknowledged the ribbing.
"First thing is, I can't wait until tomorrow morning to call my mother. How dare she say that?" he said. "My French teacher never thought I was stupid. At least she never told me."
On a serious note, he reflected on a period of his life that was coming to an end.
"I've had six years as chairman of the board at Hopkins, and it has been one of the greatest opportunities anybody has ever had to make a difference. And I've only gone a very small way toward what I would have liked to have done," he said. "But you just got to know this is the greatest institution in the world."
During his remarks, Bloomberg thanked Sidney Kimmel for his gift of $150 million to Johns Hopkins for cancer research and patient care--the largest single gift ever to the university. Earlier in the day, a dedication ceremony for the new Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins was held. (See story, this issue.)
"It is not me, it is you who should go home tonight and be proud of what you did," Bloomberg said to the audience. "Tonight is a thank you for everything you have done for Hopkins. Everything you have done in the world. We will not forget it."
He went on to tell those gathered about the reason for the university's new fund-raising campaign and the need for Hopkins to do even more in the future.
"The challenges keep getting greater and greater, the more we do," he said. "The more we learn, the more we know how much we don't know, and how much there is to learn. And that's exactly what Hopkins is all about."
He later reflected on his long association with the school, a relationship that he said will continue to live on despite his new responsibilities. He said he had been bequeathed a great legacy at Hopkins by Morris Offit, who preceded him as board chairman, "and I like to think I leave a great legacy to Chip Mason."
In his closing remarks, Bloomberg offered words of advice on the university going forward.
"We didn't go through life to lay up. Johns Hopkins is not about taking the easy route," he said. "Johns Hopkins is about going out there and trying new things. Trying the things that everybody says aren't going to work. That's how we are going to cure cancer. That's how we are going to enhance the arts. That's how we are going to educate our children for the future."