The time has come for the fast-talking Cleveland native known for his success in marketing Villanova’s School of Business to step into the role previously occupied by a soft-spoken doctorate of English literature from California.
Let the speculation begin.
Within these first few months, Butler University President Jim Danko will be under scrutiny to see how he compares and—perhaps more significantly—contrasts with former President Bobby Fong.
“President Danko’s blend of skills are different than Dr. Fong’s,” Jay Howard, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said. “Having a carbon copy wouldn’t challenge and stretch and push the university in ways that we haven’t done recently.”
One difference can be spotted simply by comparing educational history—whereas Fong holds a doctorate degree, Danko received a Master of Business Administration from the University of Michigan.
“Some faculty will have some degree of suspicions [of a president without a Ph.D.], but I believe that President Danko has the ability to win over their approval,” Howard said. “He realizes it’s his job to inspire and challenge the staff. I think President Danko is capable of doing it.”
Jamie Comstock, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said while it is common for a university president to have a doctorate, it isn’t a necessity, and Danko’s dedication to education was an overpowering factor in the hiring process.
“I think what’s more important is whether or not he has an intellectual life of mind,” she said. “Whether or not he understands what it means to provide quality education at the undergraduate and graduate level. You don’t need a Ph.D. to know those things.”
Another concern students posed is whether Danko will continue the tradition of being a visible presence on campus, working to develop a personal relationship with students.
Chuck Williams, dean of the College of Business, said he thinks Danko will continue to be accessible and involved with campus life.
“Students have to realize that it is also the case that university presidents spend significant time fundraising these days,” he said.
But Danko’s past successes in the business world and fundraising have caused some to question whether he will be able to maintain the small, liberal arts campus atmosphere and the dedication to academic excellence.
Comstock said it was unfair to say Danko lacks appreciation for the liberal arts, citing his Bachelor of Arts and his past experience working at a university with a strong liberal arts program.
“[Danko] has a liberal arts background in his heart and understands more than a lot of other people that you can take a nice, strong liberal arts background and turn it into something that works in the world of business,” she said.
Howard said he thinks Danko’s academic background is reflective of Butler’s ultimate goal—a combination of a professional degree with a strong core in the liberal arts.
“President Danko’s real asset is in his entrepreneur spirit,” he said. “He is a big-vision entrepreneur thinker that challenges all to have a bigger vision and challenges us to become even better.”
Howard said he didn’t think students should be concerned that a change in the presidency would affect the academic visions of their Butler education. He said the curriculum mainly is under the authority of the department faculty as a whole and that Danko would respect those rights.
Regarding student enrollment, Williams said he thinks there will be expansion under Danko’s tenure, but that it would not affect the university’s environment.
“My best guess is that there is going to be growth involved,” he said. “But I think it can be done without losing the small class sizes and personalized attention.”
Williams said previous experience has taught him that even if Butler were to grow by a few thousand students, it wouldn’t make a “dramatic difference.”