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LEADING QUESTIONS: Butler's Fong talks sports, Stevens

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Leading Questions

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.

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  • Marvin Scott
    Why does Butler continue to emply the racist, homophobic, perennially losing Marvin Scott? Is their a race/gender/sexual orientation he has NOT offended in public? Why does the university continue to associate itsself with a man of such low moral character?
  • bobby fong
    Bobby Fong is an inspiring leader and a genuinely nice guy. Butler and Indianapolis are blessed by his presidency. But for full disclosure I admit to bias in his favor; because, for the sheer joy of it, Bobby organized my childhood baseball card collection, which I had not looked at in decades.

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  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

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