Pat Bosco said he’s giving up all his titles for the most important one he could think of: grandpa.
Kansas State University’s vice president for student life and dean of students is retiring this July after serving the university in some capacity for 48 years.
Bosco, 69, said he’s had a pretty good run, serving under five presidents while at K-State.
Nowadays, he can be found walking to and from meetings and events on campus, giving a wave and a greeting to almost everyone he passes. He said when he retires, that probably wouldn’t be the case.
“I probably won’t be on campus too much,” he said. “If I am, I’ll just be some old man in purple. Maybe people won’t think that’s too different than now.”
Bosco came to K-State for college in 1969 as a junior transfer student. That spring, he was elected student body president, and he graduated in 1971.
“I came here not knowing anyone,” he said. “My first plane ride was from Syracuse, New York (where he was from) to Chicago. … My second flight was from Chicago to Kansas City. My third was a little three-seater from Kansas City to Manhattan.”
He chose K-State, in part, because it was the only school that wrote him back. Bosco wrote to dozens of schools, asking questions about student life, and K-State was the only one that answered his questions with more than just a form letter.
On that plane ride, they flew over the campus around sunset, and he saw his new home sunbathed that evening.
“I thought, ’This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen,’” Bosco said.
He went on to marry a K-Stater, to whom he defers big decisions.
“Susan will have the last say on our retirement plans,” he said.
They also raised two K-Staters, who then married K-Staters.
As for that custom purple car he’s know for driving, Susan again gets final say, he said. However, he wants to drive a purple car forever. His current plan involves his grandchildren, Hannah and Henry.
“I would like to have one, and give it to my grandchildren to drive to their first day at K-State,” he said. “I don’t know how we’ll handle it fiscally. … I’ll work it out with Briggs.”
Hannah, 5, and Henry, 8, could go to K-State. Henry wants to be an inventor or engineer. Hannah wants to be a dancer and a veterinarian, all of which are offered at K-State. Bosco joked at his university-wide retirement party if they choose to go anywhere other than K-State, he won’t pay for any of it.
Otherwise, Bosco said he tried to give everything he could to his students. The university estimates 800,000 people have his home phone number, which he gives to all students and their families at orientation and enrollment.
“I’d say 99% of the calls are extremely appropriate,” he said. “These families call and they have no place else to go. Even if it’s at 3 a.m.”
Bosco wouldn’t say if he’d change the number after July.
“I’m sure someone else will pick up the tradition,” he said. “Changing the number, well, that might be a Susan decision.”
During his tenure, he was offered jobs from other universities and corporations.
“I never had the luxury of starting new,” he said. “There are lot of advantages of being at one place for all time. … All those times I was offered a job elsewhere, I was fortunate to weigh it against the place I love.”
Bosco loves just about everything at K-State. He said he was touched that the school planted a tree in his honor right in front of his parking spot behind Anderson Hall. His spot once belonged to Chet Peters, who was an early mentor for Bosco when he was dean of students until Peters’ retirement in 1985. Later, the school would name the recreational facility after him.
Inside Anderson, Bosco said he has the best office on campus. The corner office faces the north side, looking into the trees near Eisenhower Hall and off toward Seaton Hall. Students look into the windows as they walk by, smiling and waving when they realize Bosco is sitting at the conference table in plain sight. He always waves back.
“I’m going to miss these moments,” he said. “When I’m in here after making a tough budget decision and I see something like that, a young lady waving at me wearing her K-State hat and K-State sweatshirt. This is my school. … I’ll miss this more than anything else. I won’t miss budget cuts. I have the greatest job in America. It’s just right for me. I’m very fortunate.”
He’s most proud of the accomplishments he sees in changes to scholarships, trying to offer more need-based opportunities for students. He also said he’s proud of the enrollment increases during his tenure and the buildings that came with it — Jardine Apartments, Wefald Hall and the Kramer Dining Hall renovation — and the services for students, including Powercat Financial and the Cats’ Cupboard food pantry.
“We’re always striving for better,” Bosco said.
For him, the hardest part of the job was the calls home when a student died.
“Addressing tragedies in the middle of the night, it’s just heart-wrenching,” he said.
He tries to remember the good, though.
“There are the joys,” he said. “Graduation. Watching leaders grow from inarticulate freshmen into articulate, focused seniors.”
And his favorite Call Hall ice cream flavor, Swiss Chocolate Almond.
Still, Bosco said he’s most impressed by “the resilience of students.”
“I don’t know where it comes from,” he said. “I think my students aren’t entitled. We’re two hours from Kansas City and Wichita. It’s not a school out of convenience; they want to be there, and it amplifies what they’re willing to put up with when it’s worth it.”
His advice for his successor, Thomas Lane, is to be his own person, with a vision and a pathway.
“The culture will stay in tact. I’m just one person. It’s not leaving with me,” Bosco said. “There are more than 200,000 alumni, programs and initiatives that aren’t going away. They’ll continue to be enhanced long after I’m gone.”