Purchase photos

Droge hopes to ride momentum into FHSU presidency

4/9/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Should Michael Droge be named the ninth president of Fort Hays State University, he promises to hit the ground running.

Droge, 62, is a finalist for the FHSU presidency, a position created when longtime President Edward Hammond announced in the fall semester he would be stepping aside this summer.

Droge, the fourth of five finalists to visit campus and the city of Hays during the past three weeks, told a large audience at a Tuesday press conference how impressed he is with FHSU’s initiatives with other countries and that the new president will need to keep up with the fast pace for which Fort Hays is known.

“This university has great momentum,” Droge said. “The new person coming into the job has to move that agenda forward. You don’t want to lose that momentum.”

Droge is president of Park University, a private four-year institution in Parkville, Mo., and is well-aware of the significance of moving forward.

“An important part of education in the 21st century is a global education,” he said. “That was one of the draws for me to Fort Hays.

“This institution was very smart to be out front, doing what Fort Hays was doing in China,” he added in reference to FHSU’s distance education partnerships with several universities in that country.

Droge is the only presidential candidate thus far who has experience in a president’s office, and he thinks that’s a plus.

“I think Fort Hays State would benefit from someone who has been serving as president for a number of years in a successful presidency,” he said.

Droge is in his fifth year at the helm of Park after serving as its provost and senior vice president of academic affairs for seven years.

“You need someone who is going to serve the entire institution and has had the length of experience and credentials and academic background and truly understands higher education,” Droge said.

Droge, accompanied by his wife, Molly, a pediatrician, answered numerous questions at the press conference, ranging from the financial stability of Park University to his experience of working with corporate partnerships to how he would hit FHSU’s goal of reaching 20,000 total students — on campus and abroad, by 2020.

Park University, he said, is “on a solid path,” with the highest financial ratios possible.

What it all boils down to, Droge said, success is building on one’s strengths.

That, Droge said, is “having a shared vision, having everyone pulling in the same direction” for the success of students “because a university is about students’ success.”

The fifth and final candidate will be in town Thursday and Friday. There will be a 4:30 p.m. public reception on campus Thursday and a press conference Friday. The site of Thursday’s reception will be announced with the release of the fifth candidate’s name at noon today.

FHSU will submit its candidate recommendations to the Kansas Board of Regents at the conclusion of the campus visits, and the board anticipates announcing the new president later this month, with he or she taking office July 1.