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Who are you?
I am a giver. My time is split between New York City and Charleston, South Carolina. In New York, I'm involved with College Board projects that are personally meaningful to me. In Charleston, I am co-owner of the Charleston RiverDogs, the Class A team of the New York Yankees.
I have given to all levels of education through programs at the College Board. I am contributing all royalties from my new book, Grasping the Ring: 9 Unique Winners in Life and Sports, to support CollegeEd®, a program I believe is essential to urban America. As a member of the College Board's Center for Innovative Thought, I encouraged an in-depth study on community college needs and directions. I hope the resulting report will influence the presidential candidates and they and their staff members read and commit to its major findings.
When I moved to Charleston I wanted to prove my commitment to that community. I decided to invest in the Charleston RiverDogs because it reaches so many people. About 300,000 grandparents, parents, and young people visit the ballpark. Both tickets and food are offered at reasonable rates, inviting the whole community to enjoy the games. You can go if you want to have fun, but you can also go if you're a serious baseball fan.
How did you get to where you are today?
My life has been driven by ambition, preparation, and lots of luck. I'm from a small town in southwest Nebraska. My father was a local auto mechanic educated through sixth grade. My mother was a nurse's assistant at the hospital. My teachers were excellent models and gave personal time to me.
I attended McCook Community College and then went to the University of Nebraska to receive a B.A. in English, an M.A. in political science, and a Ph.D. in finance. As a full-time student I worked full-time as a writer for two newspapers. I went to work at 6 p.m., got off at 2 a.m., and attended classes from 8 a.m. until noon. I'm glad I'm from McCook, Nebraska. I am also very proud that I went to a community college.
At 24 I became chief of staff for the governor of Nebraska. I was later selected by the chancellor of the University of Nebraska to be his chief of staff. This allowed me to teach and to write scholarly articles. My graduate students were 10 and 15 years older than I was and I had to prove my worth. This helped me transition into later appointments as president of Illinois State University and then president of West Virginia University. At WVU, I had the opportunity to work with Senator Robert C. Byrd, Senator Jennings Randolph, and Governor John D. Rockefeller. In 1981, I returned to my Midwestern roots as chancellor of the University of Kansas. At times I wonder why I dared to accept a few of these jobs.
In 1994 Ewing Kauffman and Gene Autry nominated me for the presidency of Major League Baseball's American League. I came to office nine days after the cancellation of the World Series, a time when we had to rebuild public confidence in baseball. The president of Yale had been named President of the National League and the president of the University of Kansas had been named President of the American League; both held doctoral degrees. Owners had great respect for high levels of education. One has to have a very common touch to be successful in any business that reaches out for public understanding and support. Advanced degrees are very important, yet they are not everything. There has to be a steady balance between the two.
Where do you see education in the future?
One cannot forget that community colleges this fall will enroll half of all of the students in our colleges and universities. To be more precise, half of the very good jobs in America will require two additional years of training beyond high school. That means that college will be central to the engine required for economic success. Despite their contributions, community colleges are underappreciated and often misunderstood. Community college graduates are everywhere and rendering essential services.
The abilities of young people today are stunning. They are filled with promise. My only concern is whether they will elect to use all of that potential. It is there like never before. With commitment, the United States will be the world leader for generations. International competitiveness is what it's all about. Suddenly, we're not on the stage alone. We're up there with eight or nine other very promising players.
In order to be successful today, one has to be thoroughly prepared for opportunities, and many of those are opportunities one never envisioned. It is always best to be overqualified. One cannot overemphasize the importance of a good college education. I also include the importance of advanced degrees in selected fields.
Q: Where do you go for inspiration?
A:The classroom. I still go in two or three times a year to teach classes. I draw enormous strength from the students.
Q: How did your passions for academia and athletics come together?
A: At the University of Kansas, the chairman of the board of regents told me I would oversee the well-being of the basketball program. He assured me that if I took the Jayhawks to the NCAA tournament every year, they would be off my back. He was right.
We went to the NCAA tournament every year for 13 years. I hired Larry Brown as my first coach. We used the success of athletics to our advantage and built the eighth-largest endowment among all public universities in the United States. Some of the largest contributors today are people who had no idea about the strength and potential of the academic side of the university. They were brought in through the athletic program. It was through that program that we educated them on the real value of a university and highlighted the needs of the university. We also assured them investments there would have a lifetime of returns.
Q: What about you might surprise us?
A: My wife and I have decided it's best to give it while you're living. The largest academic building on the University of Kansas is Budig Hall. When I go back there and introduce myself, students will ask, "Are you related to the Budig of Budig Hall?" And when I say, "That's me," some thought I had probably died years and years ago.
I've had all of the recognition I need, and it's time to give, give, and give.
The College Keys Compact
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The 2013 Catalog of Effective Practices
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The 2012 Catalog of Effective Practices
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The 2011 Catalog of Effective Practices
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The 2010 Catalog of Effective Practices
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The CollegeKeys Compact: An Open Letter to the Leaders of American Education
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A Review of Barriers, Research and Strategies
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Getting Into College: A Cross-Cohort Examination of College Preparations by Lower-Income Students
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Getting Into College: Postsecondary Academic Undermatch
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