A brief bit of Bardo: WSU president talks work, recreation

Andrew Linnabary

If one were to guess how Wichita State President John Bardo likes to spend his free time, the likely answer, at least in 2016, would be watching football.

Yes, this is a pastime of Bardo’s, but there’s another passion of his that he doesn’t shy away from talking about: stained-glass work.

Bardo has practiced the hobby since before his son was born, for “almost 40 years.”

“People don’t laugh at it, so I figure that’s good,” Bardo said. “I tend to like geometrics. I’m not much on trying to do human figures or bird figures. Geometrics are a little easier to control.”

The advantage of stained-glass work is the fact that stained-glass uses a cartoon, which, Bardo said, is “basically a template” for the design.

“If I leave it for three months, I can go right back and see right where I was,” Bardo said. “I mark each piece of glass as to what colors it’s going to be, so I can go right back down to it and start cutting again if I have to walk away because there’s other things.”

And there certainly are other things.

Bardo, president of WSU since 2012, begins his day by answering emails at 7:15 a.m. At 9 p.m., he may still be invested in his inbox.

In between that 14-hour span, Bardo is in meetings, giving speeches, or doing an assortment of other things — it depends on the day, he said.

“It’s all over the place,” Bardo said. “By the nature of the job, if there’s an emergency you’re on the job. So that just throws everything into a cocked hat.”

The fact that no two days are exactly alike is one of the beauties of his job, Bardo said.

“There’s not much routine except for Mondays,” Bardo said. “Other than that, it could be anything. I could be in Topeka, I could be in Dallas, or I could be here giving speeches in the community.”

Bardo uses his Mondays to touch base with his administration and to “walk through the big problems we’re dealing with that day.”

“That’s the one day you try to hold as a routine day,” Bardo said. “Everything else is kind of whatever comes, so you’ll see me doing weird things at weird times. It’s the nature of the job.”

Bardo tries to keep his Sundays free “if it all possible,” but said lately that hasn’t been manageable.

He tries to aim for a “fairly early” bedtime, around 9 or 10, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to sleep.

“I watch TV for a little while to try to calm down,” Bardo said. “I find if I lie down it helps to begin the brain-calming process until I need to go to sleep.”

Bardo’s first job out of grad school was at WSU. He didn’t realize he’d end up back at WSU as its president.

“I met my wife on campus and had done a whole career in higher-ed and was going to teach at UNC Chapel Hill to kind of finish out and go off into the sunset, and then this job came up,” Bardo said.

“I told my wife this was the only job in the country I would actually want. So applying for it and getting it was a really special deal. It’s not that I wanted to be president of Ohio State or Michigan. This was the place. So being here is more than kind of special. It’s really special.”

To remind himself every day that he “wasn’t the first one,” in terms of his presidency, Bardo reclaimed the desk of Clark Ahlberg, who was president when Bardo was a young faculty member, when he came into office.

“Clark probably understood this university as well as anybody in terms of what it could be and what it should be,” Bardo said. “He was a native Wichitan, graduated from North High, went off and had a good career in higher-ed and came back as president. He and Emory Lindquist, the president before him, used that desk. I was so glad to find it. It was downstairs in the assistant’s office. I offered her a new desk. She was kind and I was new. You don’t get the president asking for your desk every day.”

Bardo likes to keep tangible objects such as the desk to remind himself he didn’t get in his position by himself.

“One of the things I say regularly in speeches, but I really believe, is that you get somewhere by standing on the shoulders of giants,” Bardo said. “You don’t actually do it yourself. So I bring in the physical things to remind myself there were giants here, and it’s a value to honor them and honor the tradition of the university.”