My meeting with Mr. President

Cartoon by Gabbie Evans


Two weeks ago I wrote about how I had never met President Danko. This idea stemmed from the fact that I had attended Purdue University for only one semester and met President Mitch Daniels numerous times, though after a full year at Butler I had yet to meet our president, James Danko.

Students shared with me their anecdotes from the times they had met Danko before, and, to my surprise, I was one of the few people I knew who had not met him.

I questioned whether I was doing something wrong or if athletes and more involved students were simply more prone to meeting Danko. Again, I was proven incorrect.

Per my own conclusion, sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time. Though an alternative solution is to do what I did: I emailed Danko’s secretary and they fit me right into his schedule.

I was able to go into the office to discuss his role as the president of a university.

“My daily role is all-encompassing and it really runs the gamut,” Danko said. “Sometimes the impression is that the president is more like a ‘dean of students,’ but I’m really not. My job slices across a number of different stakeholders,” he said.

“Since I am the external face of the university, my time is focused on fundraising and other external events. I do major speeches and visits around the city and the country.”

I originally compared Danko to Purdue’s president Mitch Daniels, which I realize now is not a very fair comparison.

Danko informed me how different it is to run a small, private university, rather than a large, public university, when I asked why he chose to come to Butler.

“The one thing that has always been a constant in my life is that I really like managing, organizing and leading things. What I like about Butler is that it is the right scope of leadership and responsibility for me,” he said.

“I’m not exactly sure where I would be if I wasn’t here, but, when I think of a school like Purdue, that’s not really my aspiration. At a big school, the president sees over a lot of smaller faculties and boards, whereas I get have a big part within every aspect of the university.”

Danko said he enjoys being able to spend time with students regularly and dedicates nights every semester for students to come to his house and hang out. He has invited students every year for Halloween and once even asked for company during a winter storm. He made everyone French toast.

“We have students and other groups of people over pretty often… I am also always on campus and I run into a lot of people, though I am still a little sensitive to just… crashing someone’s conversations,” Danko said.

“I will go over and grab lunch and just plop myself at a table, and a number of students will come say ‘hi.’ I don’t want to assume that they want to hang out with me, so I let them come to me first.”

Amongst Danko’s busy schedule of traveling to fundraise for the business school and science programming and maintaining his presence on campus at basketball games, he makes time to understand the social and political turmoil that is affecting students and how they should be taught to handle these situations.

“Thank God people are vocal and going to airports to voice their opinions,” Danko said. “I fully support students being active within their political views. This generation is different than mine and different from the one in between ours, and sometimes people do not understand that.

“My big message is that we need to push on issues, but with respect for others. I think respect is what is missing from the current political dialogue. Things have turned into antagonism and who can out-shout the other…and we have a responsibility as a university to help students to become better at being good listeners and good activists.”

This is all a part of Danko’s main goal to leave Butler “better than he found it” and to help students and the university as a whole prosper as one.

The last thing I wanted to know from Danko were the perks of presidency.

“I am from Cleveland, so I am an Indians fan. I made it a goal of mine to visit The World Series if the Indians ever made it back, so, when I found out the last two games were going to be in Cleveland, I said, ‘Clear my schedule, I am going to The World Series,’” he said.

Danko received tickets from Fox Sports, who sponsors the Big East, and was able to go to the game. Danko then pulled out his phone to show me who he happened to be sitting next to.

“I was next to this guy… Bill Murray,” Danko said. “He was very friendly and had a lady sitting next to him, who I later found out was from Indianapolis. It’s a small world.”

After this meeting, I realized how much of a role the president of a university has. I have so much respect for a man who travels a majority of some weeks to raise money for this institution, is a part of other organizations like the NCAA president’s council, who helps to benefit student athletes and still makes time for students.

He wants us to be active in our views and explore what it means to be young activists who fight for what we believe in — though he highlighted the fact that we need to learn to be respectful and view all sides of social turmoil before we act.

Having a president who can be so humble about what he does is very special. He even has some jokes, so don’t be afraid to pull his leg a little when you get the chance to have a conversation with him.
He left our meeting saying that he would write a counter article titled, “Who is Madi McGuire?”, so that he could share my story with Butler, too.