‘The vision is still there’: Late President John Bardo remembered at celebration of life event


Austin Shaw

Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer John Tomblin speaks at late President John Bardo's celebration of life. Tomblin remembered Bardo for the vision he had for the university, specifically with Innovation Campus and research grants.

Late Wichita State President John Bardo’s life and legacy at the university were honored at a celebration of life Thursday.

A few hundred people in the WSU community came to the event in Beggs Ballroom. Members of Bardo’s family, including his wife, Deborah, attended the event.

Bardo was remembered in video testimonies as well as through multiple speakers, including WSU Tech President Sheree Utash and Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer John Tomblin.

Utash recalled the 30 months that it took for her and Bardo to merge Wichita Area Technical College and Wichita State into WSU Tech.

“In my 30 months working with him, he challenged me to think differently,” Utash said. “He challenged me to be collaborative. He taught me how to take road blocks down, he gave me the opportunity to work with him on a very unique model for higher education for Kansas and for our nation.”

Bardo was also remembered for changing the culture of campus and diversifying the staff at the university.

Another highlight of Bardo’s career was the creation of Innovation Campus and public-private partnerships at WSU. Tomblin recalled the very beginnings of the conception of Innovation Campus, and the resistance the university faced.

“You don’t get stronger unless you have resistance,” Tomblin said, making an analogy to working out at the gym. “I want you to just think about that. Unless I have resistance, I don’t ever get stronger. I think of the resistance we got — it only made us stronger to the vision.”

Despite Bardo’s passing, the vision the late president had for the university is still there, according to Tomblin.

“The vision is still there, when we had General (John “Mike”) Murray here on Monday, he saw the vision too.”

Murray was on campus along with United States Senator Jerry Moran, visiting NIAR “for a briefing on what role WSU could potentially play with aviation technologies adapted to ground warfare,” according to the university.

Following the celebration, an ice cream social was held — Bardo’s “favorite type of event,” Provost Rick Muma said.