Ursinus College President Is Dead

Bobby Fong rose from son of immigrants to academia.

Ursinus College northwest of Philadelphia has announced that its president, Bobby Fong, has died of natural causes. No other information was immediately available.

“For the past three years, Bobby has been a thoughtful leader of our Ursinus community,” the university said in an unsigned statement. “He cared deeply for our students and was honored to have led an institution that encouraged them to live purposefully. This was always the greatest source of pride for Bobby, and he spoke eloquently of how Ursinus embraced the process of learning.”

Elsewhere on the Ursinus website, a biography of Fong:

Dr. Bobby Fong became President of Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, on July 1, 2011. The son of Chinese immigrants, he grew up in Chinatown in Oakland, California. A scholarship enabled him to attend Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in English and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Dr. Fong earned a doctorate in English Literature from the University of California-Los Angeles in 1978, where his dissertation research formed the basis for his lifelong scholarship in the works of Oscar Wilde. He is the editor of Poems and Poems in Prose, volume one in the Oxford English Texts edition of the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, and the author of essays and monographs on literature, higher education, religion, and baseball.

His academic career began at Berea College in Kentucky, where he taught from 1978 to1989. Inspired by a mentor who counseled, “A professor controls the climate of teaching and learning in his own classroom; an administrator affects the climate of teaching and learning across a campus,” he became Dean of Arts and Humanities at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. In 1995, Dr. Fong accepted the position as Dean of the Faculty at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York.

In 2001 he became President of Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana, one of only 20 Asian-American college presidents in the United States. His decade at Butler was marked by highly successful financial management and strategic planning. The University implemented a new core curriculum, built or renovated a facility each year, completed a $154 million comprehensive campaign, and sustained an athletic program distinguished by its balance between academic achievement and competitive excellence, exemplified by a men’s basketball team that appeared in two consecutive NCAA finals while producing seven academic All-Americans in five years, more than any other basketball program in the nation. The University realized improvements in student life, for which he won the President’s Award from NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education in March, 2011.

At Ursinus, he has led the campus in creating Transformative Education, a seven-year strategic plan for the College, and the establishment of two interdisciplinary centers: the Center for Science and the Common Good and the U-Imagine! Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies.

Dr. Fong is past chair of the Board of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and serves on the Presidents’ Council of the Association of Governing Boards and on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, and the Lingnan University Foundation.