Presidential praise

Dennis Cromwell, Dave Jent, and Brad Wheeler garner university medals for their roles in IU’s IT successes

As Michael A. McRobbie closes out his 14-year run as IU president, he is honoring senior leaders who have made major contributions to IU’s achievements during his tenure.

On June 21, he made a stop at the Cyberinfrastructure Building to commend IT leaders for their good work over the years. At the ceremony, he presented Distinguished Service Medals to Dennis Cromwell, executive director of IU’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, and Dave Jent, associate vice president of networks, and bestowed the President’s Medal to Brad Wheeler, former vice president for IT and CIO and Kelley School of Business James H. Rudy Professor of Information Systems. 

Well deserved. Here, IU President McRobbie stands between Dennis Cromwell, left, and Dave Jent while Brad Wheeler Zooms into the ceremony. 

Of course, IT holds a special place in McRobbie’s heart, considering he joined IU in 1997 as the university’s first vice president for information technology and chief information officer.  

“As I am retiring from the presidency in just over a week, I wanted to stop by today to express my most grateful thanks to all of you for all that you have done—and continue to do—to strengthen Indiana University’s reputation as a world leader in the uses and application of information technology,” McRobbie said. 

McRobbie is understandably proud of the IT organization he helped to build. As is IU’s current Vice President for IT and CIO Rob Lowden. “UITS is fortunate to have such outstanding leadership over the last quarter century and we look forward to continuing that successful support of the mission of IU in the decades to come,” he said. 

Here’s a portion of what President McRobbie said about each medal recipient:

Dennis Cromwell 

“[Dennis] joined University Computing Services at IU in 1990, where he developed a technical infrastructure in support of client/server computing, established a Web development effort, evaluated and selected database and development tools, defined a technical architecture for enterprise systems, and managed systems development activities. He also led the design of the central system Year 2000 plan. 

“In 1998, I appointed Dennis as director of University Information Systems. In this role, he was responsible for the technical support of enterprise-wide systems that support the major administrative functions of the university. 

"He went on to serve as associate vice president for several UITS divisions, including client services and support, enterprise infrastructure, and now as associate vice president for constituent success. In those roles, he worked extensively with faculty, students, and administration to deliver and support mission-critical technologies, including enterprise-wide software, data centers, servers and storage, campus networks, voice communications, and identity management. 

“Since 2017, he has served as executive director of IU’s highly successful Media Digitization and Preservation initiative. This ambitious project, which I announced in my 2013 State of the University address, was the largest such undertaking in all of higher education and one of the largest preservation projects anywhere in the world. Under Dennis’s excellent leadership, the exemplary, trailblazing work of the MDPI team has inspired other universities, museums, and cultural institutions around the world to emulate it. . . Dennis and all the members of the MDPI team are to be commended for their outstanding work that will ensure that these important parts of IU’s collections will be forever preserved for use by students and scholars.” 

Dave Jent 

“[Dave] began his career at IU in 1982 working for Indiana University Computing Services on the Indianapolis campus. His responsibilities included the maintenance of the TRAN communications network at IUPUI. He also installed the DCA network at IUPUI and the IU Regional campuses in 1987 and was named manager of the IUPUI Data network group in 1988.

“His strong network background has provided a stable foundation for leading technical staff and managing complex engineering design, installation, and support projects at IU for nearly four decades. He has held various management and project manager positions over the years, including group manager for data network services, associate director for network infrastructures, and director of network infrastructures for Indiana GigaPOP.

“Dave also served as project manager for the Next Generation Abilene Router deployment project. This project, which started in late 2001, was essentially a “fork lift” upgrade of the entire Abilene backbone as well as deployment of a new set of measurement hardware known as the “Abilene Observatory.”

“In 2008, he was appointed as associate vice president of networks. In this role, Dave oversees the engineering team for IU's Global Network Operations Center, the premier NOC in the world for advanced research and education networks. The GlobalNOC supports not only IU’s intra- and intercampus networks, but also manages 21 major national and international networks, employs over 130 network engineers and associated technical staff, and has 10 graduate students working on various associated projects. Since its establishment, the GlobalNOC has brought $180 million from contracts to IU—by 2027 this number will be around $300 million—and $40 million from grants.” 

Brad Wheeler 

“I have had the great pleasure of working closely with Brad over the last two decades, and he has been a close and trusted advisor. 

“In 2001 . . . I hired him to a part-time university-wide position as IU’s first associate dean for teaching and learning IT. Because of his ability to do so many things well, over the next six years, he took on five different leadership roles in UITS, including directing IU’s advanced supercomputing and research systems. During this time, he co-founded the Sakai and Kuali open source software foundations, pioneering a community source investment model that has dramatically reduced the costs of enterprise systems for higher education. 

“In 2007, of course, when I became president, I appointed Brad as my successor as vice president for information technology and CIO. For 13 years, he led the development of information technology at IU with great skill and energy. In this role, he continued to establish IU as one of the leading public research universities in the country for the uses and applications of IT. And he became widely recognized as one of the finest CIOs in the country.  

“He led the development and implementation of IU’s second strategic IT plan. And under his leadership, IU continued to push the boundaries of high-speed computing and to expand its national and international leadership in high-performance research and education networks.  

“I was also very grateful that Brad was willing to step forward to take on additional concurrent leadership roles, including, in 2015-16, as interim dean of what was then the School of Informatics and Computing, and in 2018, as vice president for communications and marketing.  

“Brad has received many honors and awards for his outstanding work, including being the first person to be named CTO of the Year by the Indianapolis Business Journal. He has also received the EDUCAUSE Leadership Award, as well as being honored by CIO Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Government Technology magazine.”