University presidents make difficult decisions. Raise tuition, for example. See state aid decline.
So some of them, when they leave, dont get a sweet send-off.
But for weeks now, at Wichita State University, Don Beggs and his wife, Shirley, have said goodbye to cheering crowds and standing ovations, even at the announcement a few weeks ago where the Kansas Board of Regents presented the campus with John Bardo, Beggs successor.
Beggs and his wife got another send-off on Thursday, at Koch Arena, where hundreds of people showed up, many of them WSU faculty and staff. Songs were sung: Camelot, My Way, Its A Wonderful World. A slide show of the Beggs accomplishments was shown.
One thing especially evident, as it has been for the 13 years of Beggs tenure, is how popular Shirley Beggs is on campus; she got as many cheers in recent weeks as he did, for her tireless work promoting WSU to outsiders and promoting goodwill within it.
Beggs is almost done really. Next week, he said, hell still be the president, attending the Board of Regents meeting, and hell contribute to decisions about tuition raises and what legislative issues the states universities need to think about for next year, when hes retired. That meeting will be the last substantive chore hell perform before turning the keys over to Bardo on July 1.
But Thursday was about saying goodbye, again.
In remarks that lasted only moments, they told everyone how much they will miss them. The past 13 years, Shirley Beggs said, was an incredible 13 years with what became extended family.
We will forever be Shockers, she said.
Don Beggs reflected back a few years to when he and the staff were working on branding, trying to capture the essence of what the university and its students and alumni and their accomplishments all meant as an identity.
They came up with the phrase that appeared on the billboards and in the marketing campaigns.
When he said the words, his voice came close to breaking, but he spoke clearly: I am Wichita State.