President Mark Schlissel told a virtual audience at the recent U-M Congressional Breakfast about U-M’s operations during a pandemic, noting that despite a mostly empty campus the university has been able to uphold its public mission.

For the first time in its 70-year history, the annual breakfast was held in a virtual format, with participants gathering via Zoom.

Schlissel provided an overview of the university’s response to COVID-19, including Michigan Medicine’s efforts to expand patient care as well as administer the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, he stressed the importance of federal investments in U-M’s research enterprise, which he noted supports more than half of U-M’s research portfolio.

“Thanks to U-M research, we know what may cause severe illness in some COVID-19 patients,” Schlissel said.

Schlissel also expressed congratulations and gratitude to his predecessor, President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman. He shared the recent news that the building housing U-M’s Life Sciences Institute has been named Mary Sue Coleman Hall, the first academic building on Ann Arbor’s campus to be named for a woman.

Watch a video of the Congressional Breakfast.

Keynote speaker Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Florida, a two-time graduate of U-M, shared his fond memories of Ann Arbor, including meeting his wife of nearly 30 years at Zingerman’s. Deutch praised U-M’s work to solve today’s challenges, including its initiatives focused on solving poverty, reducing carbon emissions and saving lives from gun violence.

He noted these are issues he works to address in Congress, rooted in what he learned 30 years ago. Deutch said his work in Congress continues to be informed by U-M scholars, such as Vice President for Research Rebecca Cunningham and her leadership of the Firearm Safety Among Children and Teens consortium.

The breakfast also featured remarks by basketball head coach Juwan Howard. Howard began his National Basketball Association career as the fifth overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft selected by the Washington Bullets, now the Wizards.

Howard spoke about his fondness for Washington, D.C., and the seven years he spent living in the area. He also discussed the importance of student scholarships and the impact that had on his own experience as a student-athlete at U-M.

Other members of Congress who attended the virtual event included members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, Republican Rep. John Moolenaar and Democratic Reps. Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee, Rashida Tlaib and Andy Levin, along with Reps. Lauren Underwood, D-Illinois, and Grace Meng, D-New York.

The annual breakfast is sponsored by the U-M Club of Greater Washington. Proceeds from the breakfast help provide scholarship support to D.C.-area students who want to attend U-M.

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