Butler University faculty, staff and trustees said goodbye to Bobby and Suzanne Fong on Friday, giving gifts, sharing memories and thanking the president and first lady for their 10 years of service.
In front of a banner that read, “Ten Great Seasons: Thank you, Suzanne and Bobby Fong,” and after a chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” a half-dozen speakers all shared variations on the same theme: That the Fongs have made Butler a better place. Members of the Butler Leadership Team wore T-shirts that proclaimed “I (Heart) BoFo” – Bobby Fong’s nickname among the students.
“The legacy of a leader is marked by whether or not the leader improved the organization during their tenure,” Vice President of Finance Bruce Arick said. “Over Dr. Fong’s tenure here at Butler, we have seen our academic programs enhanced and reached new highs in the number of students graduating from them; we have grown in enrollment and enrollment quality; we have climbed in the rankings academically and experienced great success on the performance stages and athletic fields and courts; we have had great success raising money and enhanced the campus with new buildings and renovated others — and yes, I think Dr. Fong is the first Butler University president to crowd surf.”
Michael Kaltenmark, director of web marketing and caretaker of mascot Butler Blue II, said the Fongs “acted as leaders, visionaries, friends, partners, and yes, even as a mother and a father to us all from time to time.”
The Fongs leave Butler at the end of May for Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, where Bobby Fong will serve as the 13th president. James Danko, dean of Villanova School of Business, becomes the 21st president of Butler on Aug. 1.
The Fongs are leaving with a slew of gifts that included an oversized baseball card featuring Dr. Fong, who is an enormous baseball fan; a framed picture of Carter House, where they have lived for their 10 years at Butler; and a large ceramic bulldog.
In thanking the crowd of about 300, Dr. Fong said Butler survived an internal budget deficit and two national recessions because “we trust each other, we believe in each other and we love one another.”
“If there’s a sense today – and I think there is – that our students are more civil, more thoughtful, more other-giving, more serviced-oriented, it’s because of what you have taught them here,” he said. “As Suzanne says, ‘We will be leaving in body, but our hearts will always be at Butler. We’ll always be Bulldogs.’ ”