President Mary Sue Coleman used her final appearance at the annual U-M Congressional Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to urge federal and state policymakers to continue to support higher education.

In her remarks before more than 300 alumni, business leaders, members of Congress, staff and others, Coleman said American leadership in research and education is being challenged by other nations, and urged that investments in these areas be strengthened to help ensure our nation’s future.

Above: President Mary Sue Coleman sings “The Victors” at the breakfast with alumni of the U-M Glee Club. Below: U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a U-M alumnus, addresses the breakfast. (Photos by Freed Photography)

“The urgency and priority our nation placed on research spending in the 20th century is now being mimicked by China and other nations in the 21st century,” Coleman said.  “We should be looking over our shoulder, because we are being challenged on a global scale.”

Coleman said she was encouraged to see Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed state budget this year, which calls for a substantial increase in spending on higher education.

“We have a chance in Michigan to recapture national leadership with support of our public universities,” she added.

Also addressing the audience was U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.  Upton thanked Coleman for her leadership and said her successor will hopefully “follow in the same footsteps.”

He also said the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chairs, soon will unveil new efforts at accelerating health care. The effort, to be called “21st Century Cures,” will focus on getting better and newer drugs and treatments out of the lab and into the hands of doctors for treatment.

“Let’s work with the drug industry, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and our universities to use the advances in research to speed up the development of drugs,” Upton said.  “If we won’t do it, others will, and those jobs will go overseas.”

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, joined Upton in acknowledging the contributions Coleman has made in the past 12 years.  “You will be missed,” he said, wishing her well in her retirement. 

Other members of Congress in attendance included Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Reps. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls; Bill Huizenga, R-Holland; Dan Kildee, D-Flint; and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township; Ted Deutch, D-Fla; and Jon Runyan, R-N.J.

The event is sponsored by the U-M Alumni Club of Greater Washington and raises thousands of dollars each year to support scholarships for needy D.C.-area students who want to attend U-M.

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