Jim Danko, who became an entrepreneur at 19 and went on to become a business school administrator, will be the next president of Butler University.
Danko, 57, the dean of the business school at Villanova University, was introduced to the Butler campus Wednesday before a festive crowd of students, professors and news media that filled the large Reilly Room in Butler’s Atherton Union building. People filled nearly every seat and others stood along the walls at the back.
On July 1, Danko will replace Bobby Fong, who has led Butler for 10 years and leaves after the school’s national name recognition has soared to new heights following two consecutive trips by its men’s basketball team to the NCAA championship game.
When Fong stepped before the podium Wednesday afternoon, he could only say “Good afternoon” before the crowd began to applaud, eventually rising to a standing ovation. Fong will depart on May 31 to become president of Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa.
Danko said he was “humbled” to follow all of Butler’s presidents, but singled out Fong, “who has truly raised the status to such great heights in the last 10 years.”
Danko said he’s intent on making more people aware of Butler, and not just its basketball program.
“This is definitely a place that is underappreciated in the national marketplace,” Danko said in a news conference after his introduction ceremony.
Danko, a native of Cleveland, was chosen from a field of candidates that started at 50 and narrowed to a “handful” of finalists, said Craig Fenneman, vice chairman of Butler’s board of trustees.
Butler’s 20-member presidential search committee worked with Florida-based executive search firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates to identify its 21st president. The committee sought input from students and other members of the campus community, but kept the search confidential.
Butler faculty were not informed of Danko’s selection until Wednesday afternoon.
Danko got the job because of his experience in several key areas, Fenneman said, including recruiting and retaining faculty, serving students, fundraising, and curriculum innovation.
Danko has been at Villanova since 2005, helping to develop an undergraduate business program that is ranked among the top 20 in the nation. Applications to the business school have doubled during his tenure, according to his online biography, and financial gifts to the school have quadrupled.
Danko previously served in leadership roles at Dartmouth University, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Before entering academia, he spent nearly 20 years as an entrepreneur, running a surgical supply company he founded as a 19-year-old. He expanded the business over the years before selling Exercare Corp. in 1990.
Danko and his wife, Bethanie, have two college-age daughters, Melanie and Meredith.