Bradley President Stephen Standifird will likely be remembered as the president who took over during a pandemic; the president who guided administration through back-to-school procedures during his first month in office.
“If I would have known what I’d be walking into before I agreed to join, I wouldn’t pause to do it,” Standifird said.
The new president’s moving truck rolled into Peoria on June 1, a month after assuming the dual presidency in order to better navigate COVID-19’s impacts. Before that, he served as the dean of Butler University’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business, a position he held since 2014.
Besides his current roots in higher education, Standifird worked as a chemical engineer, majoring in the field at Purdue University. He said that in a strange way, his background has lent itself well to managing the current crisis.
“I joked with the vice chair, that my background being engineering, those careers are designed to solve problems,” Standifird said. “This problem was bigger than I’d anticipated, and not exactly what I had in mind, but it’s exactly what we need to be tackling right now.”
Chairman of Bradley’s board of trustees and ’79 graduate, James Shadid, headed the presidential search committee that hired Standifird in early March.
“You may recall that when he was hired his start date was June 15, 2020,” Shadid said. “He came on early to help us address the challenges we face. He has handled this crisis with calm and steady leadership by listening, gathering information and then making the difficult decisions that need to be made.”
Standifird said he’s been meeting with administration daily to discuss the safe and complicated transition back to campus. In his rare moments of free time, he dabbles in photography and studies astronomy with his elementary-school-aged daughters.
“[Those hobbies] give me the chance to kind of slow down and pay attention to the moment,” Standifird said.
Despite being new to the area, Standifird said the constant need for communication during the crisis has been an opportunity to get to know the Peoria community.
“I was joking with my wife that I can’t believe we know more people in our community today within a month than we did for five years where we used to live,” Standifird said.
Since announcing the university’s commitment to in-person classes this fall, Standifird said he’s also anticipating the opportunity to get to know students in person.
“I am optimistic about the future of this University,” Shadid said. “I think we have hired the right person for this moment in Bradley’s storied history. President Standifird is well suited for this position. When students are finally able to return to campus I believe they will agree.”