The man who led Wichita State University for the past 13 years, and did the difficult work of making the university more efficient at serving business and local industry, is now spending some time cleaning out closets and emptying drawers in his home.
Sometimes as he does this, Don Beggs says, he comes across a photo of a young-looking couple, taken not long after they arrived in Wichita, photos old enough now to start turning yellow. “Has it really been that long since we came here?”
Beggs is preparing to leave as soon as the search committee and everyone else can settle on a new university president. He says he’s relishing the last weeks of his tenure, not because they are leaving, but because they’ve come to love this place, and the students they serve.
He and Shirley won’t live in Wichita after he quits for good in June, but they will carry Wichita with them for the rest of their lives, he said. They plan to live in Bloomington, Ill., nearer children and grandchildren.
“What we’ve found is that we’re really loving the things we’re doing now, watching students perform, going to events,” he said. He and Shirley, who became immensely popular in their time here, are not looking on this long goodbye as a sad thing. “Instead, there’s this heightened feeling, where we are savoring now everything that we see and do, everyone we talk with.”
Beggs says the search for a new president will probably produce interviews in April, a selection in the latter part of May – “and then sometime in June, I’ll probably make my last decisions as president.” He thinks he’ll be out of here by late June.
“People are being nice to us to the point of us sometimes being a little embarrassed,” he said.
“Shirley and I are relishing each and every event we go to now,” he said. “It’s a very positive experience, as you know, to live here.”
Their last long trip on behalf of WSU was to travel to Portland, Ore., to watch the basketball team play in the NCAA championship tournament. That trip ended quickly, when the Shockers lost, but right after that Beggs saw one more reason why everyone here should feel proud of their university: Coach Gregg Marshall decided to stay on as Shocker coach.
“He’s a very successful coach. There are other conferences with schools that can pay more, but he decided to stay here, and that’s a testament to how the community responds to him, and to Coach Marshall himself,” Beggs said. “He’s bringing in the next generation of Shocker fans here; he and his whole family have been integral to that.”