Celebration of Bo Schembechler’s Life
November 21, 2006
Eighteen months ago, Bo Schembechler stood at the center of this great stadium as thousands of people cheered him.
His headset and Block M baseball cap had been replaced by a mortarboard and tassel. A knee-length black gown hung in place of his familiar blue jacket. Gone from his hands were the clipboard and game notes. In their place: a single piece of paper, declaring him an honorary graduate of the University of Michigan
Bo Schembechler did not receive an honorary degree because of his win-loss record, remarkable as it was. He was not honored because of Big Ten championships, or consecutive appearances in a bowl game, or players in the NFL.
Bo was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Michigan because he was a man of integrity. It is an ideal we expect each and every student, employee and graduate of this university to uphold and demonstrate. We value and promote integrity in pursuit of new knowledge, in representing our institution, or simply in cheering on the maize and blue at Michigan Stadium.
Bo personified integrity — as a coach and a mentor, as a teacher and a donor, as a friend. He believed in the importance of hard work and hard decisions, of loyalty and dedication. His integrity was larger than this stadium and it shaped all that he was, from a husband and father … to a coach who conducted himself with class and spirit … to a philanthropist who always wanted to see Michigan improve.
Bo’s message to our graduates that commencement day was very simple and very Bo: “Lead. Be tough. Be honest. Work hard. Be the right kind of person.”
A life of integrity is why we honored Bo then, and it is what we celebrate today.
These last few days, I have received hundreds of messages from alumni and fans, and even from people who admitted they are, in fact, not fans. Most of them never met Bo Schembechler. But they said they knew him. And admired him. And respected him.
All of these people, from Michigan alumna Ruth Appleton Bell, who was on campus for her 60th reunion from medical school … to Jim Haskins, one of many, many Ohio State graduates who offered their condolences … all of these people wanted to tell the Michigan community just how much Bo meant to them because of the way he lived life.
Like you, I will miss Bo. Whether we are regents or students, faculty or staff, fans or foes, we will miss him very much. He is as ingrained at Michigan as the Diag and Burton Tower, and like those iconic symbols of the University, I think we all believed Bo would always … just … be there.
And he will be.
Bo Schembechler will be a part of Michigan as long at this university displays the remarkable integrity that he embodied so deeply. He will be a part of Michigan forever.