Editorial: Believe in something and fight for it


Brian Hayes

Wichita State President John Bardo.

In April 2012, John Bardo returned to Wichita State as one of five candidates for the president job.

“There’s work to be done, and I intend to do it,” Bardo said. “If I can’t, I’ll quit.”

He never quit.

When Bardo, 70, was admitted to the hospital for treatment of a chronic lung condition last November, the retirement question was inevitably floated. But retirement wasn’t in the cards for Bardo.

There was work to be done, and he intended to do it.

“I’m in good spirits and continue to work with members of the Executive Team on university issues,” Bardo wrote in a November letter. “I’m looking forward to being back on campus and seeing you in the new year.”

Bardo would make just one more trip to campus — in the back of an ambulance. According to a WSU press release, following a visit to the hospital two weeks ago, Bardo asked the ambulance driver to take him on a drive through campus. He hadn’t been in three months.

As recently as February, Bardo was reassuring colleagues that he planned to come back as president. His work wasn’t done. He intended to finish it.

John Bardo had a steadfast commitment to Wichita and the university that bears its name.

He was on a mission to usher in a new era of higher education by championing the ideals of public-private partnership, applied learning, and community engagement. He poured time and resources into establishing WSU as the economic driver of the region.

He set a course, and he stayed the course.

His methods can be scrutinized. They have. Controversy is inescapable.

He never backed down. Bardo believed in something bigger than himself, and he fought for it.

“Tell me anything worthwhile that has ever happened in the history of the world that hasn’t been controversial,” Bardo said in 2017.

Bardo had an unwavering desire to achieve — to push WSU and Wichita at large to aspire to be better. John Bardo rejected the status quo.

His presidency was a masterclass in tenacity. He taught us to believe in something and to fight for it.

Thank you, Dr. Bardo.