Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Thursday, 04 April 2013 08:46
"Mick" Ferrari was the kind of university president who could pass as a regular nice guy.
|Mick Ferrari (left) congratulates Connie Molnar after she received the Ferrari award in the Grand Ballroom of the of the BGSU student union. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Dave Chilson recalled walking to graduate school at Bowling Green State University in the late 1970s when Dr. Michael Ferrari was here.
"He'd honk the horn and wave," Chilson said of the man who would later hire him at the university. "He was held in such high regard. Such a man of integrity."
On Wednesday, many of those who held Ferrari in such regard gathered to greet their old friend.
"He's a genuine person, who never puts on airs," said Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards, who worked alongside Ferrari at BGSU, then Wright State University. The two were next door neighbors when working at Kent State University.
Ferrari is known for his passion for working with students, faculty and beyond the campus borders. "Wherever he's been, he's had a special sense of community," Edwards said.
For 30 years, Bowling Green State University has been handing out annual awards in Ferrari's name. On Wednesday, the leader who inspired the award returned to make the presentation himself.
Though he has been gone from BGSU for three decades, many of those present Wednesday recalled their sadness at Ferrari not being selected as BGSU president after Hollis Moore died in 1981. The much beloved Ferrari, who was named interim president, was thought to be a shoe-in for the position but was passed over when the post was given to Paul Olscamp.
Dave Hyslop fondly remembered Ferrari's leadership style.
"He was an unbelievable listener. He always took time to listen," said Hyslop, who was a fellow Michigan State alum with Ferrari before working at BGSU. "He was the kind of guy you could talk to and never think he was president. He was just such a nice guy."
Many former colleagues surrounded Ferrari upon his return and shared stories from his tenure at BGSU. This was his first visit back in 10 years, and in many ways it hadn't changed much.
"It's just wonderful," Ferrari said. "There's a sense of vibrancy in the community."
His family still holds Bowling Green close to their hearts.
"Our children still refer to this as our golden years," he said. "So this feels like coming home."
"We were nurtured here by so many individuals," he said, as he looked out into an audience of BGSU employees who either remembered serving with him, or who learned to revere him from stories told by those who did.
Current BGSU President Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey said she has known Ferrari for 30 years, and credited him for her start in university administration.
"It all goes back to following a great role model," she said.
Ferrari came to BGSU in 1971 as coordinator of planning, budget and institutional studies. He was named acting provost of the university in 1972, vice president for resource planning in 1973, and executive vice president in 1978.
After leaving BGSU in 1983, Ferrari served as provost at Wright State University in Dayton, then as president of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
He is chancellor emeritus of Texas Christian University, from which he retired two years ago.
Now a resident of Lake Forest, Ill., Ferrari is senior vice president and managing director of EFL Associates Executive Search in Chicago, and president of Ferrari and Associates, a higher education consulting firm.
So he is still very much aware of the challenges facing higher education.
"There's no doubt the challenges seem to be looming far more significantly than in the past," Ferrari said. However, he added that turbulent times can lead to opportunities for positive change.
Ferrari recalled some of the more challenging times he faced during his tenure at BGSU. The university went from the quarter to semester system in one year. "I think we were the only system to pull that off," he said.
The university faced frequent cuts in state funds, "as you still do today," he added.
BGSU built the musical arts building and the student recreation center, and had to add bleachers to the football stadium to bring the seating up to 30,000 to retain Division I status.
There was a state mandated enrollment ceiling of 15,000 students, and difficulty with the state funding formula.
But BGSU retained its core values, as it does to this day, Ferrari said. "BGSU remains widely recognized and widely respected" for sending out students prepared for the world, he said.
The respect for Ferrari lingers as well, with Jill Carr, dean of students, noting the importance of the award that carries his name.
"It's because of his leadership and the vast admiration" for him by administrative staff that the award has such value, she said.
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 08:51