The first woman to lead the University of Iowa, Mary Sue Coleman held academic appointments as professor of biochemistry in the College of Medicine and of biological sciences in the College of Liberal Arts while university president.
A native of Kentucky, Coleman attended junior high and high school in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In 1965 she earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Grinnell College and in 1969 received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina.
For 19 years Coleman was a member of the biochemistry faculty at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where her research focused on the immune system and malignancies. In 1990 she was named associate provost and dean of research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and in 1992 became its vice chancellor for graduate studies and research. From 1993 until her return to Iowa, she was provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico.
She has been a member or chair of scientific review panels for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. She was named president of the University of Michigan in 2002 after serving seven years as president at Iowa.
Coleman was born October 2, 1943, and is married to Kenneth Coleman, a political scientist. They have one son.