One of the more interesting executive searches to hit Indianapolis in awhile is Butler University’s quest to replace its celebrated president, Bobby Fong, who over the past decade shook up the struggling institution in as gentle a manner imaginable and then this spring basked in the limelight as the Bulldog basketball team capped a Cinderella run to the NCAA championship game with a loss to powerhouse Duke University.
Fong announced in late October he would leave at the end of the academic year to undertake another project, this time leading Ursinus College in the Philadelphia area.
The job hasn’t been advertised yet, so specifics aren’t in public view. But ask Butler board Chairman John Hargrove what the trustees are looking for in a new president and he avoids talk of metrics and targets. Instead, he says the candidate will help the university continue to excel at The Butler Way.
The Butler Way isn’t easy to pigeonhole in the context of higher education because it isn’t overtly academic. Here’s the official definition: “The Butler Way demands commitment, denies selfishness and accepts reality, yet seeks constant improvement while promoting the good of the team above self.”
So the trustees will be looking for someone who can help Butler continue making gains in academics, enrollment and in its endowment while staying comfortable in its skin.
“Why would we want to change it to be like someone else? We want people to be like us,” Hargrove says.
Butler benchmarks itself against such universities as Villanova, Creighton and Bradley—private, residential and comprehensive institutions awarding 100-199 master’s degrees a year.
The university intends to land a replacement by the time Fong leaves. If you were a candidate, what would you pitch to the trustees? Any thoughts about Butler or Fong?