DENNISON CAN BE spotted
occasionally without a necktie: in the pre-dawn light, loping
down Russell Street at a seven-minute-mile clip, wearing gray
sweats, his black cap pulled low. But most of Dennison’s
waking hours are spent in dark suits and spit-polished shoes
as he single-mindedly immerses himself in the job of UM president.
necessary, Dennison says, of the public persona he inhabits nearly
24 hours each day. And Dennison does what’s necessary.
Since April 25, Dennison has held his job
than any president in UM history, out-distancing the tenure of
Charles Clapp, who served during 1921-35.
the hurdles that he faced when he assumed UM’s presidency
in 1990, Dennison says he expected challenges in development
of research and academic programs, but he didn't think he'd have
to deal with infrastructure. But he did, thus earning the reputation
for having an “edifice complex.” Under his leadership,
the University launched an extraordinary building boom, but improving
facilities didn’t divert the president from other goals.
Dennison's tenure, research grants have increased nearly tenfold,
from $7 million in 1990 to $65 million this year. In addition,
he has been an unwavering and outspoken champion of diversity
on campus, encouraging and increasing minority student enrollment.
Civic engagement is another of Dennison’s causes, not only
for the services that students perform but because, in the process,
they’re molded into better citizens.