Coach Snyder, Sen. Pat Roberts, K-State presidents and more on Pat Bosco’s retirement

Pat Bosco, dean of students, accepts a basketball as a gift for his time at Kansas State University after the women’s basketball game against Texas Tech in Bramlage Coliseum on March 2, 2019. Bosco will retire in July after 48 years of working for K-State. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: Over his nearly 50 years at Kansas State University, Pat Bosco touched the lives of thousands of people in his position as vice president of student life and dean of students. The following is a compilation of the impact he had on several of his friends, colleagues and students in their own words.

Richard Myers, president of K-State
“His pride in K-State and his passion for students is unequalled. He lives this passion daily, with great enthusiasm. His energy and love of students is infectious and you are inspired and energized just by walking across campus with him. I doubt he knows the entire student body, but you wouldn’t know that when you are out and about with him. He calls many he passes by name, or they call his name. It’s amazing.

“Bosco has had a major hand in defining our culture. We are known for how much we care about our students, and that is what Pat cultivates in our faculty and staff. When we get a student to campus for a visit, they most often say they love the people here, how friendly everyone is. They sense that caring attitude of all they meet. That attitude is genuine, and usually means if we can get someone to visit, they’ll apply. K-State is a special place, and Pat Bosco has had a major role in making it that way. He’ll be missed.

“A big point of pride with Pat is that K-State has the largest market share of Kansas graduating high school seniors going on to a university in Kansas. Of course, he’s a big reason it’s that way.”

Jon Wefald, former president of K-State
“He and I hired nine new admission representatives in late July and August of 1986. I hired Pat in my second week. I talked to him for 45 minutes and I knew immediately he was a winner and would be a great leader. I gave him full authority.

“After KSU’s enrollment fell by 4,500 students from 1981 to 1986, Pat and I knew that regaining those students would be our number one priority. So, you will see with the leadership of Bosco and his nine recruiters, we increased the enrollment in the fall of 1987 by 500 students. In 1998, we increased our enrollment by a record-breaking 1,300 new freshmen. Indeed, from 1986 to 1990, despite our football team winning three games in five years, Pat and I and our nine recruiters had increased our enrollment from about 15,000 students to a record breaking 20,000 students for the first time in KSU history. And we did not stop there.

“When I retired in 2009, we had increased our enrollment from 15,000 to 23,500 students. In those 23 years, we never had a year where we went down. Almost every year, our enrollment went up.”

Bill Snyder, former head football coach
“Pat Bosco is the administrative Mr. K-State.

“No one cares more or does more for this university. Pat has sacrificed so very much to enhance enrollment over the years — nearly 9,000 students.

“Pat has a great understanding of the special Kansas State culture which only comes with time here, and fortunately for all, he promotes and lives that culture.”

Bruce Weber, head men’s basketball coach
“Bosco has left an unbelievable legacy at K-State. His love and passion for our students and university is unmatched. With the help of Coach Snyder, they have truly built an authentic family here at K-State. Bosco truly bleeds purple!

“He has been a tremendous supporter of K-State Athletics and our basketball program. He is always willing to help at any time or in any way to help us recruit prospective student athletes. We are so thankful for all that he has done for K-State and wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Pat Roberts, U.S. Senator and K-State alumnus
“He’s been a great dean of students and he’s really put K-State on the map. A lot more diversity and just a whole series of things that he’s done for the school. He’s a piece of work. He’s a funny man, he’s a smart guy and he’s so enthusiastic. You close your eyes and you hear Al Pacino. He’s from Brooklyn. He’s a guy from Brooklyn out in the middle of K-State and the heartland. He’s a special guy. I admire him very much.”

Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students, speaks at the unveiling of the future site for the Multicultural Student Center at Kansas State University on April 29, 2019. Bosco will be retiring in July after 48 years of working for K-State. (Morgan Clarke | Collegian Media Group)

Bernard Franklin, former assistant vice president of student life
“I could speak to many levels of Pat Bosco. I have been in a position to watch him develop, mature and deepen. I was not the first, but I was one of the first student body presidents that he advised in 1975. Pat was, even then, very focused on personal leadership development. Our advisee meetings did focus on Student Governing Association legislation, but he was concerned about my person, my well being, how I was as a person.

“Which leads me to the heart and soul of Pat Bosco. He cares about a student’s accomplishments, but he really cares about the human being — all human beings. He connects in extraordinary ways with the soul of a person. Time after time, I have witnessed him connect deeply with a student who barely could speak the English language, or was from a home where a student was living with relatives because his parents were absent for whatever reasons. He has a unique ability to transcend culture and economic background to reach the heart and soul of a person.

“I love the quote from Simon Sinek, from his book, ‘Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,’ ‘We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.’

“So, let me say it in my words. Pat Bosco could take dreams and hearts of high income students, or from low-income students of color who come from hard places, and he could bring them to trust him with their dreams and their hearts like few higher ed professionals I have seen. His ability to create and maintain trust exceeds any admissions strategy.

“Most all of us trusted Pat with our hearts and our dreams. That’s been the secret of the K-State success! To the man who knew no strangers or would not if he could help it, would not throw away any human soul. What a man!”

Gene Taylor, director of K-State Athletics
Bosco is a true Kansas State icon and someone I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and work with over the last two years. He cares so deeply about the students and has been a tremendous advocate for athletics and our student athletes for many years. Kansas State University is what it is today largely in part due to people like Pat Bosco, and his mark on this university and community is indelible.”

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Pat Bosco holds holds a young child at the 2017 spring football game. (Emily Starkey | Collegian Media Group)

Cindy Bontrager, vice president of administration and finance
“Bosco is leaving a wonderful legacy at Kansas State University. His passion for supporting our students to ensure they have a positive experience and successfully graduate from K-State is unwavering. Who else can name every high school mascot in Kansas and has personally visited these schools?

“At each student orientation, he provides his cell phone number to every student and parent in attendance and he expects them to call him when his assistance is needed. He has taught us through his actions what it means to be a student-centric university and the culture he has influenced at our university. I have had the privilege to work alongside Bosco over the years, and he has allowed me to experience the wonder as he interacts with our students during marching band practice or early morning SGA leadership meetings that always include breakfast on him. He has been a great mentor and taught me what it means to make sure students come first.

“I consider him a true friend and he will be dearly missed at K-State — though I have a feeling we will see him around.”

Amy Button Renz, K-State Alumni Association president and CEO
“I have known Pat since my days as a K-State student. He has been a mentor to me and so many others for more than 45 years. The Alumni Association has been fortunate to collaborate with Pat and the Office of Student Life through a variety of student recruitment events over the years. I don’t know of another alumni association that has this type of partnership.

“K-State is a better university due to Pat’s ability to personally connect with alumni and students. He is someone who sincerely relates to students and their family members. The foundation of his legacy is found in his personal touch and his advocacy for students and the programs and services that support them. Pat Bosco’s impact will continue through future generations by the lives he has touched and will be a part of K-State forever.”

Larry Moeder, financial aid director
“I’ve frequently watched Bosco go through the process of implementing a policy change, or a change to our scholarship programs. He’s quite methodical in his approach, and always seeks and appreciates the opinions of our students. His ultimate goal is to always develop a policy, procedure, scholarship program or service that is fair and a benefit for all students.

“He truly believes in ‘putting students first.’ One only needs to look at the total number of hours that Bosco spends meeting with students individually and in groups to know that he, without a doubt, loves serving K-State students. He’s a friend to all students.

“Pat is a very humble and caring individual. He will always give credit to his mentors and others for his many accomplishments.”

Pat Bosco (right), dean of students, sits in his office with Erin Poppe, then-graduate student in public administration, on Aug. 26, 2015. (Archive Photo by George Walker | Collegian Media Group)

Monty Nielsen, university registrar
“Pat Bosco and I met while both doctoral students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. We had much in common at that time, such as young families, blossoming careers in higher ed and the goal of completing a doctorate in higher ed, among other things. So, we became friends and sources of support for one another very quickly. We each completed our doctorates, went our respective paths and many years passed.

“Pat and I reconnected in 2002 when I became university registrar at K-State, and the rest is history! I am especially grateful to Pat for the kindness and support that he always showed to [my wife] Anne and me — occasions such as when my mom passed, and when I came out of surgery, Pat was there. He is a most genuine and generous colleague and friend with whom I am most fortunate to have an association; my heartfelt thanks go out to him for that. Only best wishes to Pat and his family in his most well deserved retirement.”

Emily Lehning, associate vice president of student life
“Bosco is someone who sees something in someone that they have not yet had the chance to see in themselves. Over and over again, he has given students and professionals chances — chances to grow into leadership roles, changes to start programs, chances to make a difference. He is a true champion of success for students and for all those around him.”

Madai Rivera, admissions coordinator for Hispanic recruitment
“Words cannot explain… Dean Bosco is the greatest of mentors. Since being an undergraduate student at K-State, I admired his magical leadership and professional swag. I remember thinking, “one day, I would like to work for him” and here I am! He has taught me so many life lessons. I will forever be thankful to papá Bosco.”

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As the Pi Phi recruits rush to meet with their new sisters on Aug. 19, Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco runs away from the mass of screaming, happy women. The bid day celebration takes place each year on the lawn of Anderson Hall, where the sororities meet up and celebrate their new members. (Archive Photo)

Mary Tolar, director of the Staley School of Leadership Studies
“Bosco says yes to good ideas. He will admit that gets him into trouble as often as it works out well, but because he said yes to Susan Scott back in 1996, we have the Staley School of Leadership Studies. Susan asked her then-boss, Bosco, to let her focus her efforts on helping to instill in students their ability and responsibility to lead and to serve the common good. And he said yes.

“He didn’t know what all would come of this, but he believed strongly in the purpose and trusted his colleagues to build experiences that would serve students and the workplaces and communities they would enter. So, we had a course, then an interdisciplinary minor, fast forward to multiple academic programs and leadership development experiences hosted in the Leadership Studies Building. Thank you, Pat, for saying yes!”

Heather Reed, assistant vice president of student life and senior associate dean
“It has been a pleasure and an honor to work for Bosco for the past 15 years. Watching him connect with students and share his excitement for K-State has been an amazing experience. During times of student crises he always works to finds good solutions and makes sure all involved are helped and supported. I have felt very privileged to learn from him and to have his support.”

Susan Edgerley, K-State almuna and former editor for The New York Times
“I met Pat when he was a graduate student and I was an undergrad at K-State. He was the adviser for the Student Governing Association, I was on the Collegian. He used to storm into the newsroom and pound on the desk if he didn’t like the way we covered SGA.

“Fast forward 20 or 30 years. Pat has a huge, well earned reputation as the embodiment of the best of K-State. When I’m on campus for one thing or another, he invites me to come with him to hand out doughnuts to students waiting in the bleachers at the football stadium to buy season tickets. I find myself glancing up at his window when I walk by Anderson Hall, hoping I’ll catch his eye and he’ll wave from his office. I tell people he reminds me a little of Al Pacino, if Al Pacino were nicer and a Kansan.

“Like everyone else, I know Pat as the charismatic, caring, enthusiastic human connection to the university. I know him as the generous and strategic leader who wants to help and wishes us all well.”

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Pat Bosco, dean of students, speaks about encouraging and expanding diversity on campus at a solidarity rally in Bosco Plaza on Sept. 14, 2017. Bosco will retire in July after nearly 50 years at K-State. (Archive Photo by Kelly Pham | Collegian Media Group)

Jansen Penny, student body president and junior in industrial engineering
“Last spring, there was some off-campus housing [the FarmHouse Fraternity] that had smoke and real danger of a fire within the heating and air conditioning system. Shortly after fire trucks were on their way and emergency services en route, I witnessed Bosco running across campus to the site of the fire. Bosco came to ensure the safety of the students and offered all of his resources. This just goes to show how much Bosco cares about the safety and health of his students and how available he makes himself — especially in times of high concern.”

Jordan Kiehl, former student body president at K-State and senior in industrial engineering
“There are two things I’d like to share. One of my favorite memories of Bosco are all the times that I’ve walked by his office and he’s given me a wave, or any time I’ve been in his office and he paused our meeting to knock on the window and give a student walking by a nod. When I was an underclassman, I didn’t know Bosco very well, but his office was always a stop when I gave campus tours and I’d tell the students coming in how Bosco always tries to wave or say hi to students as they walk past his office and sometimes he’d even be there to wave to the tour. So, it’s sort of come full circle from my own tour on campus, to giving tours, to being the student walking by and then the student in his office.

“This year, I’ve also gotten the chance to know Bosco outside his role as dean of students. Getting to know his family and people close to him has allowed me to see the impact Bosco has on everyone and how deeply he cares for people. It’s easy for someone to keep a face on while they have a position or title, but with Bosco, you always know it is genuine.

“K-State is a better place because of him, and he will be impossible to replace, but I know all the people he’s impacted, individuals he’s coached and mentored will strive to continue his legacy and will keep asking the question that makes K-State what it is: ‘What do students think?'”

Pat Bosco, dean of students, gives a speech on "Boscology" for Mortar Board Week on Feb. 14, 2019, in the Leadership Studies Building. Mortar Board is a senior honor society at K-State. (Kevin Thompson | Collegian Media Group)

Jack Ayres, K-State alumnus and former student body president
“Nov. 14, 2017. KSUnite. Pat Bosco, Darrell Reese, Jr. and I walked from the president’s office to the podium looking over Anderson Hall’s lawn to check the microphones. I was nervous. I wasn’t worried that anything was going to go wrong, per se, but anxious, excited, because we had, as Ryan Kelly put it, the platform of a lifetime.

“We were having positive press for a change, and I was taking interviews from national sources asking tough questions. ‘Are you just trying to stop K-State from becoming the next Mizzou?’ But, generally having optimism. ‘What a novel, innovative thing that K-State is doing, not just for their students, but for the alumni, the faculty and staff, the community members, the friends.’

“We were trying to sow the seeds of change, creating an opportunity to turn things around, to shift the conversation from all that was wrong with our school and all of the pain that existed, and turn it into what was good and what was true and what made us K-Staters. While one speech or event wouldn’t and couldn’t fix the issues we were and may continue to face, it sure felt like a good start, and something we ought not mess up.

“Darrell and I walked out to the microphone and spoke into it, hearing our voices echo off of the beautiful architecture around us. That was one of the many reminders I had that day of just how incredible of an opportunity I had, getting to serve as the student body president. This campus is a fortress shared by countless Wildcats throughout the ages, but somehow I had the opportunity to get to speak, and do so in a way that the limestone bricks just may remember what all was said here on this rainy day.

“These are all great memories, but this next one is one I remember clear as day and I imagine I will never forget it. As Darrell and I walked up to the sidewalk in front of Anderson Hall where Bosco was standing, the bell towers started to play ‘Amazing Grace.’ How sweet the sound! Bosco stopped us as we got to the sidewalk and said, ‘Turn around, look at that,’ pointing to four purple streams trickling onto Anderson’s lawn. That — that is the moment. A snapshot in time that I remember well: K-Staters from a corner of campus, literally from all walks, walking, coming in on different boats but arriving to the same place, all with a background of a hymn that we all know and love. It was surreal and my words don’t do it justice.

“The three of us got to feel what nobody else could, and that is something for which I am forever thankful. Bosco said, ‘Doesn’t that just make you want to cry?’ It did make me cry. It still does. It probably always will. ‘How precious did that grace appear,’ right? It was precious, indeed. It was purple. It was my K-State experience.”

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Pat Bosco overlooks the crowd at the KSUnite Rally at Anderson Lawn on November 14th, 2017. (Kelly Pham | Collegian Media Group)

Stephen Kucera, K-State alumnus and former student senator
“As I stood on the street corner desperately trying to stay warm on that winter’s morning waiting for the bus, I heard a car horn. It was Bosco inviting me to ride with him to campus. The student government in me was frustrated at the inconsistent schedule of the campus bus system. The human in me was so happy to be in a warm car.

“Bosco prioritized his students and spending time with people. He attended meetings, but that is not why he did his job. It was to hear stories and make a difference in students’ lives. The servant leadership he demonstrated is one to idolize. He will forever be my example for what a dean of students should be — a dean amongst his students.

“The most memorable experience I had was when I contemplated whether to run for the presidency of K-State. He shared a personal story and it helped me identify what was most important to me. What mattered to me was not a presidency but making the most positive difference I could by increasing awareness of minority issues on campus and campaigning for more diverse representation.

“Bosco has more than earned this next chapter in his life. He will be greatly missed by K-State. It is our responsibility to carry on his example of thinking about those who will next go through the doors to our campus and creating a legacy that will outlive us.”