by Ena Shelley:
Very recently, Butler University received the sad news that our former President Dr. Bobby Fong had passed away. He was a beloved leader who cared deeply about IPS and held a special place in his heart for teachers.
When Butler was asked to work with IPS to open Shortridge Magnet High School, Bobby immediately said yes. We were walking in the hallways of Shortridge one day, and he told me that, when he looked into the faces of the students, he saw himself.
You see, Bobby was born to immigrants, his father died before he was 2-years-old, and his mother was faced with raising two children on her own in a country where she did not speak the language. He entered kindergarten not speaking any English, but, through the kindness of his teacher, he felt welcomed into the community and began his journey of making friends and learning the language. It was public education that gave Bobby the opportunities to learn, earn a scholarship to Harvard and to become a university president.
Bobby told me how his third grade teacher helped him to learn math through studying baseball statistics. Baseball became a lifelong love of his, and he would easily recite a multitude of statistics to you about any team, especially the New York Yankees! He became a fluent reader and writer, which prepared him to become a nationally recognized scholar on the works of Oscar Wilde.
When Butler was presented with the opportunity to create the IPS/Butler Lab School, Bobby jumped at the chance. His sister was an elementary teacher, and he had a great fondness for the early years of learning in a child’s life.
It was public education that helped shaped Bobby’s life and teachers who nurtured and supported him and his family. Each person who works in a school has the opportunity to play this role in the lives of students every day. It could be that one word, that one moment of praise and encouragement that turns a student’s life into a story like his. I ask, who is the next university president that may be among you right this minute?
I will hold dearly the lessons I learned from my friend and colleague, Dr. Bobby Fong. As I look into the faces of the students in IPS, I will see the hopes and dreams he held for each of them. With the greatest respect for what everyone who works in public education does on a daily basis, I express my gratitude. My life and the well-being of Butler University were changed by a success story in public education. May each of you continue to create many more successes like that of Dr. Bobby Fong.
Joining Butler in 1982 as an assistant professor of early childhood education, Ena Shelley served twice as interim dean before being appointed dean of the College of Education in June 2005. Shelley earned both her bachelor’s degree (1973) and master’s degree (1976) in elementary and early childhood education, as well as her doctorate in child psychology and early childhood education (1981) from Indiana State University. She has been involved extensively in state and national legislation concerning K-12 education, and was an integral player in the creation of partnerships between Butler University and Indianapolis Public Schools. For more information about Ena Shelley, click here.