Most of us know Richard Myers as the president of Kansas State University, but he is also a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and retired four-star general in the United States Air Force who served under former president George W. Bush during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The transition from military leadership to a public university’s administration is, in some ways, very fitting. Both jobs involve enforcing rules and etiquette on members of their respective groups, although the military has stricter rules regarding expected behavior.
Myers said in the military, there are programs to help people understand the competency of everyone regardless of race, and those who could not change would be kicked out.
“We’re an open campus, we’re a state government organization,” Myers said. “In the military, we had all sorts of education and programs around discrimination. But we can’t ask students to leave here if they don’t commit a crime. I think for the dedicated bigots in the world, I’m not sure we have any program.”
In his first year on the job, Myers has gained popularity with some K-State students, including Benjamin Rauth, freshman in political science. Rauth has taken multiple opportunities to interact personally with Myers.
Rauth said during Wildcat Warm-Up over the summer, Myers stopped him while walking near Bluemont Hall and held what Rauth described as a “private and intimate” conversation with him.
“Myers was walking back to his residence when I was huffing up that big hill for an event,” Rauth said. “He shook my hand and asked if I was a student and my major and so forth. This was the nicest I’ve ever seen him. You know how [Pat] Bosco is benevolent for such a high-up administrator? That’s what it felt like.”
The professionals working closely with Myers speak of him cheerfully and with great respect. Cindy Hollingsworth, director of news and communications at the Division of Communications and Marketing, works with Myers to prepare his speeches and news releases.
“He’s very caring,” Hollingsworth said. “He’s always very down-to-earth and approachable every time I’ve worked with him.”
Having something to be passionate about is important to being successful, Myers said. Myers found his passion while flying an airplane at K-State in the fall of 1964, a passion which has guided him through his career.
“The first time I went up in a little Cessna 172 and looked down, of course, you’re bouncing around in the wind,” Myers said. “It was in the fall and the heater was on a little bit, it has this certain smell inside those little airplanes. I said, ‘This is cool! I really like this.’ That flying led to the Air Force pilot training [and] it became other things, but it was the passion that got me started.”
One of the things Myers said he cares about and has carried over from his military career is integrity and achieving what you set out to do. Myers said he has worked for people who are ethical, and it is important for him to continue that tradition.