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John Bardo to be Wichita State’s next president

John and Deborah Bardo
John and Deborah Bardo are introduced to the Wichita State community on April 27, 2012.

A new era of leadership will begin on July 1 when John Bardo takes over as president of Wichita State University.

The Kansas Board of Regents selected Bardo from four finalists submitted to them by a 20-member search committee. Bardo, who started his career at WSU in the 1970s, will become its 13th president, succeeding Donald Beggs, who began in 1999.

"My wife and I are very excited to be part of the WSU family," Bardo said after regents chairman Ed McKechnie introduced him on April 27. "Wichita State is a wonderful university with great potential. Wichita is a tremendous community and we're delighted to be back. I look forward to working closely with the university's students, staff and faculty, as well as with Wichita's business and civic leaders, in advancing WSU's mission."

John Bardo
John Bardo started his career in higher education at WSU. 

Bardo, 63, most recently was a professor of education at Western Carolina University after retiring as the school’s chancellor, a position he held from 1995 to 2011. He said one reason he decided to retire is that he felt he was losing his effectiveness as chancellor and it was time to turn the job over to a new leader.

“All leaders need to understand that there comes a time when you need to go, and if you don’t know that, you shouldn’t be running a university,” Bardo said in an interview with the Wichita Eagle.

He was praised at Western Carolina for increasing enrollment and creating many new and innovative programs for students and faculty.

After he left the chancellor’s job, his plans included the possibility of working at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. But when a colleague told him about the opening at Wichita State, his curiosity was piqued.

“It seemed like I should take a look,” he said. “What I saw changed my direction entirely.”

Bardo, who was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, started his career in higher education at WSU. From 1976-1977 he was graduate coordinator of the Master of Urban Studies program. And from 1978-1983, he was chair of WSU's Department of Sociology and Social Work.

He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Ohio State University, a Master of Arts in sociology from Ohio University and a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Cincinnati.

During his career, Bardo has been a department chair, dean, university vice president and provost.

The start of a new presidency is an exciting and galvanizing time for Wichita State, says Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation.

“Dr. Bardo and I have spoken about his dreams for Wichita State and they are ambitious and energizing,” King said. “He’s excited about helping with the WSU Foundation’s mission and getting to know our friends and alumni as quickly as possible.”

Bardo has said that he wants to strengthen the ties with local industry that Beggs worked to develop. He also wants to help Wichita State foster more innovation and creativity, both on campus and in the community. And he’s well aware that the rising cost of tuition has put a financial strain on students, an issue that must be addressed. But first, he says, he plans to listen and learn, recognizing the value of input from Wichita State’s partners, stakeholders and supporters.

He and his wife, Deborah, will take time to get settled into the president’s home on the WSU campus and get reacquainted with the university and community. Deborah graduated from West High School in 1971 and still has family in the area. She attended Wichita State, earning an associate’s degree in secretarial studies in 1974, a bachelor’s degree in education in 1975 and a master’s degree in communication in 1977. The Bardos have one son, Christopher, who lives in North Carolina.

Of utmost importance to Bardo is embarking on a strategic planning process with a steering committee that will include both campus and community representation.

“This endeavor will serve as the basis for setting future fund-raising priorities for the university,” King said.

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