The university presidential search spanning from last spring and into this semester concluded Oct. 16 when the Board of Trustees chose Gary Roberts as Bradley University’s 11th president.
Board of Trustees Chairman Doug Stewart announced Roberts at the Dingeldine Music Center Friday morning in front of a large crowd of faculty, staff, students and community members.
Roberts, who will officially begin his duties as president Jan. 1, is a 1970 Bradley alumnus, who graduated with an economics degree before going on to graduate at the top of his class at Stanford Law School.
“This is truly a dream I keep wondering if I’m going to wake up from,” Roberts said during the ceremony. “It’s probably the most exciting and at the same time humbling day in my professional career returning now to the place that my adult life started almost exactly a half a century ago. And yes, I’m that old.”
Roberts said becoming the president of “this great institution at such challenging times” is an intimidating responsibility but, ultimately, an honor.
“My overarching goal is to leave Bradley … a better place than it is today so that Bradley students for generations to come continue to be enriched and prepared to be productive leaders of our society, and that in this day and age is a daunting task.”
Roberts said he has two main challenges to tackle during his presidency, the first being campus safety.
“When we hear about the campus shootings around the country and acts of terrorism we can’t just pretend like that can’t happen here; it can,” he said. “We have to always be on guard and prepared to deal with these situations.”
The second challenge deals with the changing attitudes surrounding higher education in today’s society.
“[Bradley should be] maintaining relevance and affordability at a time when technology is fundamentally changing the skills that people will need to thrive in the workforce today,” Roberts said.
Additionally, Roberts said he plans to seek input and opinions from everyone he can to maintain transparency.
“By involving more people, it gives everyone a better understanding of what you’re doing,” Roberts said. “People will support you and help achieve success rather than undermine you by undue criticism and discontent.”
Throughout the ceremony, Roberts kept the audience laughing when talking about several topics, including during the introduction of his wife, Donna, who he said is excited to be a part of the Bradley community.
“I have to say that having Donna with me is sometimes a little embarrassing because as you will quickly find out she is smarter than I am and more accomplished than I am,” Roberts said. “She’s more charming and personable than I am. She’s certainly better looking than I am, and so you may be wondering why am I standing up here and not her, and I don’t really have a good answer for that. I do have some feminist friends who have a theory about that but I’m not going to go there.”
Roberts said his only regret was he wishes his parents could be with him for the announcement.
“They had such a great sense of pleasure and satisfaction, especially my dad who died two years ago … he loved Bradley,” Roberts said. “[He] was so happy when I came here and was very proud when I graduated, so this is sort of for him and my mom as well.”