Butler University President Bobby Fong announced at 1:30 p.m. on Friday that he will be leaving Butler at the end of the academic year to accept the presidency at Ursinus College.
Ursinus is a small liberal arts school of 1,700 students in Collegeville, Pa. After reviewing more than 100 applications, the board of trustees and the selection committee at Ursinus chose Fong to take the position.
“Fong comes to Ursinus with more than a decade of experience in a small-school setting, which is something the board and I have been looking for in the candidates,” Spencer Foreman, chairman of the board of trustees at Ursinus, said in the announcement.
During his time at Butler, Fong has doubled the endowment of the university and has balanced the budget. He also led a record-setting human capital campaign that raised $154 million for Butler.
“Ursinus sought a president to lead it in a strategic planning process, a comprehensive fundraising campaign and an effort to raise its profile in the local community and nationally,” Fong said in a press release. “Butler gave me experience in these areas.”
Fong thanked the students, faculty and staff at Butler for the way the university has changed since he took office in 2001.
“[Butler] has taken shape because of the dedication, commitment and hard work of so many people here,” Fong said. “Thank you for all you’ve done and will continue to do for Butler University.”
Members of the Butler University Board of Trustees praised Fong for his achievements at Butler during his time as president.
“Butler is a better university than it was 10 years ago, thanks to the leadership of Bobby Fong,” John Hargrove, chair of the Butler University Board of Trustees said in a press release. “All of us wish [Fong] well in his new endeavors and we sincerely thank him for his dedication as our president.”
Faculty and staff were just as surprised as students were to hear the news about Fong leaving the university.
“In a way, I’m not surprised that a college at the caliber that Ursinus has would be interested in hiring [Fong],” Provost Jamie Comstock said. “I was, however, surprised at the timing. I had hoped to work with him longer.”
As news spread on Twitter and Facbeook before the official announcement was made, students began to talk.
“I’m mostly confused,” junior Matt Miller said. “He didn’t give an actual reason for leaving.
“It’s not like he’s going to some big ivy-league school with an incredible reputation.”
Some students said they could not believe the news and began to wonder who will take his place.
“I am personally very sad,” sophomore Jeremy Algate said. “I suppose I’ve never noticed what it means to have a good president.”
Other students reflected on their thoughts about Fong and are hopeful for the future of Butler.
“I was really surprised to find out that he was leaving our school,” sophomore Lauren Batson said. “I really enjoy the relationship we have as a student body with President Fong.
“I hope that whoever takes over his position has the same enthusiasm about creating a relationship with the students of Butler University.”
Ursinus began the search for a president in April, after their former president, John Strassburger, stepped down. Strassburger died in September after a yearlong battle with prostate cancer.
“We lost a dear friend and leader, and no one was confident that we could find someone with the depth and knowledge like him,” Foreman said. “I now know that we have.”
Butler’s board of trustees, the group in charge of hiring and firing the university president, will meet at the end of this week to determine the agenda for choosing the next president.
“Like everyone else, many of the members of the board found out on Friday, so we haven’t had much time to collect our thoughts yet,” Comstock said.
While members of the Butler community are sad to see Fong leave the university, Comstock said it’s important to support him in his difficult decision.
“It’s important for us to be happy for him,” she said. “This is a great person we all have admired and looked up to and he has a great opportunity, so we need to back him and just be happy for him.”