Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” where IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about their industry and the habits that lead to success.
Bobby Fong, 60, became president of Butler University in 2001 and hit the national spotlight this spring when the men's basketball team streaked through the NCAA championship to the final game in its hometown. Fong gave 37 media interviews over a four-day period during Final Four festivities, and he also could be found hobnobbing with celebrating students.
Although hardly media fodder, Fong's achievements as president have been no less vital to the school than the high-profile exploits of Butler's hoops squad. After the university ran on deficits for more than a decade, Fong instituted financial equilibrim in the budget process and started an eight-year streak of surplus budgets beginning in the 2002-2003 fiscal year. In 2009, the school completed a six-year fundraising campaign, raising $154 million for scholarships, programs and facilities—almost $30 million more than the public goal.
In the video below, Fong discusses his Final Four experience, capped by the decision to extend basketball coach Brad Stevens' contract and pay him at a major-college level. (The contract is believed to include about $600,000 in base pay, plus bonuses that could bring its annual value close to $1 million; Fong declined to reveal details.) He also tackles the issue of generating revenue for Butler, including the steps he's not willing to take to bolster the top line.
The first American-born child of Chinese immigrants, Fong began studying baseball as a child to learn more about American culture. Today, he's on the board of the Indianapolis Indians and sports oodles of baseball memorabilia in his office on Butler's campus. In the video below, Fong shows off some of his prized possessions and finds similarities between being a university president and a team manager.