Far from Normal
10th chancellor, Victor Boschini, may have come from Normal, Illinois,
but he's anything but average. Teacher, leader, friend and all-around
good guy, he's poised to lead TCU to that elusive "next level."
three spots in the parking garage on the Illinois State University campus
have red Reserved hoods over the meters. Most people know that one belongs
to the president. But some do not. So when Victor Boschini Jr. arrived
one morning to find a car in his place, he simply parked behind it, then
headed off for a day of meetings.
returned to his office he was greeted by a red-faced freshman who'd been
waiting more than four hours to retrieve his car.
was really embarrassed," Boschini recalled with a characteristic grin.
"But it gave me a good opportunity to spend some time getting to know
boy's father later thanked Boschini for instilling a life lesson rather
than just towing the car.
seems to have a knack for creating teaching moments, even if his only
prop is a parking space. Ask around, you'll hear it again and again -- he's
a born leader. He draws people in, organizes them and then gives them
the credit for being so smart.
material, that's what he is. He certainly fit TCU's criteria in the search
for its 10th chancellor, someone to build on the momentum created by Michael
Ferrari. A leader to navigate the next wave of expectations.
"He has an
energy and enthusiasm that is contagious, and his style is very inclusive,
just as Mick Ferrari's was," said Trustee Denny Alexander, chairman of
the chancellor search committee. "I think all constituents in the TCU
community will find him to be the kind of dynamic leader TCU needs as
we strive for new levels of prominence."
office at Illinois State University is on the fourth floor of Hovey Hall,
a stately building in the center of the 145-year-old campus. There are,
of course, elevators, but Boschini always takes the stairs. He says his
knees argue with him too much now to continue his former running schedule,
so the stairs and brisk walks serve as his primary form of exercise.
On this April
day, oldies drift from a small portable radio on the floor. The Elvis
memorabilia and books on the shelves have been boxed up, ready for the
move. A stack of graded tests cover some of the family photos and quotes
tucked randomly under the glass top of the conference table. Footprints
in the sands of time are not made by sitting around, reads one.
stately if slightly worn, served a previous president; Boschini salvaged
it from storage. He calls his decorating style traditional, and though
he enjoys Oriental, he tends toward classic items that are "old and kind
he's dressed in a conservative dark suit, and with his usual self-deprecating
manner, jokes that he's the "Richard Nixon of fashion."
energetic, Boschini admits that while he enjoyed team sports as a youth
he was among the last players picked -- but he was team captain when his
peers got to choose. "I was never the funniest, the smartest or the most
athletic," he noted, "but my high school principal used to say that I
was the one those kids wanted to be with. I guess I just like bringing
skill served him well at a university fractured by infighting when he
took the reins at ISU in 1999. Boschini's charge was to heal the divisions.
a strategic planning initiative called Educating Illinois, he quickly
"galvanized a team," said ISU Trustee Jack Huggins. "At the time there
were many disputes over governance, disputes between the board and faculty,"
Huggins said. "We weren't all pulling in the same direction. His job was
to create a vision and get everyone pulling the same direction.
have to rate him an A+ on that."
of Educating Illinois was to make the university "the first-choice public
university for high-achieving, motivated students." Within a year ISU
had moved up a tier in college rankings. Within two, committees involving
373 faculty, staff and students had implemented 14 of 79 action plans.
of this would have happened if he hadn't said, 'Go to it,' " Huggins
recalled. "What he's accomplished in a few years will set the direction
for many more years. It's a tremendous foundation for moving forward."
dismisses such praise with a wave of his hand.
wisdom is always better than your own," he said. "When you're
a university president, good ideas just flow in your door. Your job is
to help them become reality. And when that happens, the weird thing is
you get credit for them."
becomes animated when talking about making things happen. While he contends
that he is "just a placeholder," others praise his ability to build consensus.
a trustee at Butler University where Boschini served as associate provost,
said his true talent lies in being "one of those leaders who is quite
content with other people getting credit for the successes that occur."
Educating Illinois, Boschini set his sights on funding some of the initiatives.
Hamstrung by an endowment of only $31 million, he organized the university's
first fund-raising campaign, Redefining Normal. It banked more than $62
million of the $88 million goal in two years, giving the school its first
endowed chair, a building for the College of Business, a new theater and
a football building.
How did he
do it? "I just asked," Boschini said with a shrug. In his shoot-from-the-hip
style, he added, "I'm no brain surgeon, but they hadn't given before because
no one had asked them to."
heads to TCU with an upbeat attitude about raising money. "I believe
that people don't give to schools, people give to people," he said.
"So I plan to build relationships that will make me a part of you,
and you a part of me."
It's a job
he eagerly anticipates, for it gets to the core of his favorite activity -- making
friends. "I get the fun part of it. I get to be a friend-raiser."
belief in the servant-leader model also spurred his involvement in the
Illinois Campus Compact, a group of 34 university presidents working to
infuse service learning activities across the curriculum.
"I want our
students to know how to be good citizens," Boschini said. "They need to
learn that it's important to vote, volunteer and voice their opinion.
You can instill civic engagement into the classroom whether you are teaching
physics or woodshop."
crowded schedule of meetings with the Legislature, campus and civic activities
and time for his family, which includes four active kids, Boschini spends
four hours a week in class, teaching Sociology of Education. He considers
it a privilege and hopes the School of Education will invite him to teach
when he gets to TCU.
best four hours every week. It's the time I know everyone in the room
will tell me the truth. I know what the students are thinking about because
I talk to them twice a week. If they're having trouble with registration
or hate the food, I know about it."
Hills, Ohio, was a middle-American bedroom community-on-the-grow when
Boschini lived there as a boy. Victor Sr. was a foreman at Ford Motor
Co., mom Elizabeth a homemaker. The neighborhood cul-de-sac jumped with
kids, including two sets of his cousins, and open fields nearby provided
hours of entertainment for an inquisitive boy prone to organizing big
Gail, three years his senior, said Boschini had goals from an early age
and set a standard for himself that drew people in. Everyone knew he'd
be president of something someday and acted accordingly. Dubbed "Bad Dude" -- as
in a VIP -- by his twin sister Beth and several cousins, Boschini's entourage
would pretend they were his bodyguards as they passed the elementary school
children on their way to the junior high.
parents, both high school graduates, made it known that college was expected
and lived frugally to provide it, forgoing luxuries like air-conditioning.
was a passion for Boschini even as a youngster. Beth and cousin Ray were
often enlisted as students in Victor's makeshift classroom. "He was
always teaching us," she remembers, affectionately. "When we'd
speak incorrectly, he'd correct us."
to be at the front of the classroom grew as he did. Class president his
junior and senior year. National Honors Society. Class treasurer. President
of the Latin Club.
"I did everything
the nerds did," Boschini said. "The kid in the back of the class with
the glasses -- that was me."
at that assessment, pointing out that her brother had a large circle of
friends, many of whom he still stays in touch with. "He had as many friends
who were boys as were girls," she said. And girlfriends? Boschini chuckled.
"I was the one who always got dumped."
He got into
trouble, too, at least once. Boyhood friend Michael LaRocco, now president
of Safeco Personal Insurance in Seattle, was there the one time Boschini
skipped class. The teacher didn't show for a class they were in so the
two hightailed it to a table the student council was manning. Then down
the hall comes the teacher, back late from an appointment.
LaRocco, said, laughing. But other than tattling that Boschini is a "horrible
driver" (Boschini admits it), LaRocco stands by his friend: "As trite
as it sounds, Victor is as good a soul as you could ever hope to meet.
He has always been one of the most honest, decent people with unwavering
integrity. He was that way at 15. He's that way at 47."
has never been afraid of work, an example set by his parents, and he held
many jobs in his early years. He and cousin Ray once decided that the
car wash would be a great place to work, but the two only lasted one day.
Most jobs were more rewarding. Boschini worked for Marshall Fields for
several years and one summer labored at a box company where the regular
workers cold-shouldered the "rich college kids."
we weren't at all," he said, noting that the work was boring but paid
well. "But we won them over, and by the end of the summer they loved us."
people exemplifies Boschini's success as a leader, said Mary Paugh, assistant
dean of student services at Butler when Boschini served there as associate
provost. Paugh watched in awe as he "energized his staff and fellow administrators."
someone who listens and nods his head," she said. "He is someone who listens,
thinks about what was said and takes it into sincere account. And he does
that with everyone -- students, faculty, administrators and trustees."
his friend and colleague from Butler, says Boschini leads with a cooperative
style that doesn't call attention to itself. "He has the ability to energize
the people around him," she said, explaining that he united polarized
groups when Butler decided to go to a fully residential campus.
an emotional issue as well as a financial one. But Vic was able to move
it forward quickly in a way that was satisfactory to everyone involved.
And through all the hard decisions that had to be made he maintained the
respect of the administrators."
is one of Boschini's favorite times of day. The local paper once announced
that he started his day with Pop Tarts, which resulted in a deluge of
the pastry landing on his desk. Boschini laughs when asked about it.
"I just have
whatever the kids are having. This week we're on to Fruity Pebbles. We
get up at 6:30, have breakfast, then I take them to school. It's my opportunity
to indoctrinate them. And give them lunch money."
of the extended Italian family Boschini enjoyed as a child continues in
his own nuclear family. Calendars are planned two years out, and all the
family vacations and important dates go on first.
is the hub of the family universe, complementing Boschini's kinetic energy
with calm steadiness. Both are educators; Megan has bachelor's degree
in political science from DePauw University and a master's degree in higher
education administration from St. Louis University. She was working in
Residents Life at DePauw when she met Victor. Now a homemaker, she volunteers
with the high school Scholastic Bowl and various local community organizations
such as the Normal Children's Museum.
15; Mary Catherine, 13; Edward, 9; and Margaret, 7, are included in all
of their parents' activities. Acquaintances say the young people are comfortable
in any social setting and possess a noteworthy maturity.
has the nicest family and the most well-behaved children I've ever seen,"
said Todd Hovendon, owner of Biaggi's restaurant, one of Boschini's favorite
spots. "You guys are lucking out down there. You're not just getting
Vic, you're getting the whole family. Congratulations. That's a big win."
Boschinis arrived in Normal in 1998, they built a house -- the first that
they owned. Nine months after moving in, Boschini was named president
and they relocated to the president's home, a rambling ranch-style affair
on the campus golf course.
brimming with enthusiasm about coming to TCU and a warmer climate. The
kids are excited about having a pool in the backyard.
enthusiasm spills over into everything he does. Johnson remembers when
her husband painted an ugly old furnace in their basement with a fanciful
design. When Boschini heard about the project during a visit he jumped
from his seat and headed for the stairs, exclaiming, "I love basements
and old furnaces!" It was "classic Vic," Johnson said.
also loves Elvis, the arts, sports and the alluded-to hot weather. He
and Megan attend as many ISU athletic venues as possible, and are particular
fans of football and women's basketball. Athletics, Boschini said, are
an important part of the university culture, as long as they don't become
call it news, weather and pottery. It is the great equalizer, a mingler,
culturally, and should be an integral part of the college experience."
is the "dream job" for Boschini and his family. He says the
campus community has the right attitude and a strong upward trajectory
because previous administrations laid a solid foundation. "TCU is
not broken. There's nothing to fix," he said. "I am coming with
a pen and paper, not a sword, and see my role as managing and refining
doing that is an honor and privilege, it is also "a huge, awesome
leader isn't afraid of hard work. It's served him well in the past and
put him on the fast track in college administration. Now, helping TCU
manage that "next wave of expectations" is a role he tackles with relish.
to have fun, but there's nothing special about me. I just work really
accomplishments at ISU:
"The only thing I will take credit for is that I helped them believe
they are better than they thought they were."
" At a university, there is a reverse hierarchy. The most important
person on campus is not the chancellor."
"Studies have shown that most elementary teachers teach to the
smartest, most cooperative girl in class. They want students to be quiet
and listen. But I think younger kids should have some chaos in their classrooms.
It should be frenetic because that's how they learn. Especially boys.
I don't believe in the style of teaching where teachers try to open the
top of the head and pour in information."
"I don't carry a wallet. I'd just lose it."
"I like a place that is learner centered. And TCU seems like a
place where the faculty believe they are still learning. They are very
welcoming and warm and loyal to the university. TCU seems like the kind
of place where if someone had a good idea, her or she might see it implemented
in his or her lifetime."
that Elvis lives:
"I've always just liked him. Well, OK, that's an understatement.
It's way more than that. I'm just trying to be normal for you."
"I am not threatened by a better idea. I hope I'm smart enough
to know I'm not the smartest person in the world. And I don't want to
be the most fascinating person at the cocktail party, but I do want to
be seated beside that person."
"I'd rather be brutally honest up front than have someone feel
I misled them on the other end."
"I like to have fun, but there's nothing special about me. I just
work really hard."