Chancellor Frank Borkowski, an
has orchestrated several ringing accomplishments
By Phil Kirk
football autographed by legendary Florida State
football coach Bobby Bowden occupies a prominent
spot in the office of Frank Borkowski, the
chancellor of Appalachian State University in
Boone. On it Bowden has written, We don't
need another football team.
The additional football
team Bowden thought Florida didn't need was one
at the University of South Florida in Tampa,
which at the time was the largest area in the
nation without a college team. A feasibility
study on the need for USF to begin a football
program came back with a positive recommendation.
But the issue was divisive and created
uncomfortable pressures on USF's president, Frank
was high, but the (state) governing board was
dominated by Gators and Seminoles,
Borkowski recalls, referring to University of
Florida and Florida State alumni.
Had it not been for that
thorny issue, Borkowski might still be leading
the University of South Florida instead of being
at the helm of ASU. His five years at South
Florida had produced many successes, such as
closer ties with the Latin America community and
the medical community, but Borkowski, a native of
West Virginia, and his wife Kay missed the
mountains and the change of seasons Tampa can't
We had been
expressing this desire to move, and we received a
call (about an opening at ASU) from David Brown,
former chancellor at the University of North
Carolina at Asheville, Borkowski says. They
had become friends when they worked together in
higher education in Ohio. Borkowski checked out
the state and the situation in Boone with another
friend, UNCC Chancellor Jim Woodward.
Borkowski liked what he
heard about Boone and the UNC System. He applied
and he was hired in 1993 as the fifth chief
executive in Appalachian's history.
By all accounts ASU has
benefitted greatly from the varied experiences in
higher education that Borkowski, 63, brought to
Boone. By several yardsticks ASU's programs have
grown in quality and quantity during his tenure.
high marks in numerous national studies, such as
America's 100 Best College Buys and U.S.
News and World Report rankings, Appalachian
has advanced beyond its long-held reputation as a
good teachers college. It recently was ranked
fifth among regional public universities in the
South and 15th among public and private
institutions in the magazine's college 2000
Everything at ASU
revolves around students and how to prepare them
for life when they leave the strikingly beautiful
mountain campus. Borkowski points out with pride
that within the 16-campus UNC system, ASU has the
second-highest five-year graduation rate, the
third-highest freshman retention rate, the top
graduation rate for all football teams, and the
second-highest graduation rate for students
athletes for all UNC system schools with or
without football. Even the student union is
receiving national attention, as when it was
ranked recently by the New York Times
as among the 25 best in the nation.
only child, Borkowski was born in his
grandmother's house in Weiston, W. Va. His
86-year-old mother, Felicia, still lives in
Steubenville, Ohio, just across the river from
his birthplace. She worked in steel mills during
World War II and at various other jobs. His
father, Francis, worked in a paper mill in
southern Ohio. I came from a blue-collar
family, he points out. They worked in
steel, coal and paper mills.
Music united Borkowski
and his wife of 40 years, the former Kay Kaiser
of Hamilton, Ind. After receiving his
undergraduate degree with a major in music
education and a minor in English from Oberlin
College, he went to Indiana University. There his
major was music performance with a minor in
conducting. One course requirement was to play in
a small ensemble. In the opera orchestra, he was
first chair clarinet and Kay was first chair
Borkowski is an
accomplished musician and conductor. He has
performed with the Indianapolis Symphony, the
Indianapolis Woodwind Quintet and the
Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He established
and conducted the West Virginia University Wind
Symphony and the Ohio University Symphony
Orchestra. Each summer, he conducts the North
Carolina Symphony during performances in Boone.
Despite his heavy
teaching and administrative workload over his
years in higher education, he has performed as a
soloist, conductor, or in ensembles in more than
600 music performances.
Growing up in a
blue-collar, diverse community, he was exposed to
music and religion at an early age. He remembers
Serbian, Greek, Polish Catholic and Black Baptist
churches and a Jewish synagogue in his
His first musical
instrument was the accordion, which he began
playing at the age of 9. Receiving encouragement
from his parents, Borkowski joined the high
school band and played the clarinet. He still
plays the accordion at weddings, religious
observances and other celebrations.
Borkowski's teaching and
administrative experience have given him the
tools to deal with diverse challenges. While at
Ohio University, for instance, he was a member of
the faculty senate and chaired the
faculty-student liaison committee during the
tragedies at Kent State.
We were the next
university to close after Kent State, he
recalls. Ohio University was a very
volatile campus. During the first five
years of the 1970s, enrollment at Ohio University
plunged from 18,600 students to 12,500, primarily
because of unrest and uncertainty on the campus.
Financial problems grew
as did the threat of collective bargaining. As
associate dean of faculties, Borkowski was at the
forefront of the union debate. The union lost,
but Borkowski decided to move to Indiana-Purdue
University at Fort Wayne as first vice chancellor
and dean of faculties.
In 1978 he began a
10-year stint at the University of South Carolina
as executive vice president and provost. There,
one of his points of emphasis was on developing
international programs. His biggest
catch was bringing Pope John Paul and
major religious leaders from around the world to
the USC campus.
Then it was on to the
presidency of the University of South Florida,
which is now the 11th largest university in the
country, with four campuses.
Borkowski's love of
travel and his interest in international affairs
have led to an expansion of the foundation former
Chancellor John Thomas built for ASU on the world
scene, including ASU's relationship with
Northeast University in China. The university
received considerable publicity last fall when it
convened an international banking conference in
China attended by a number of prominent Tar Heel
Insisting on sharing
credit with others, the ASU chief executive
believes that one always builds on the
successes of this predecessors . . . . John
Thomas did a superb job of positioning the
university for my team and me to accomplish good
things for our students and faculty around the
ASU has direct links
with 30 foreign universities. Students from all
disciplines can study business in China or
Mexico, literature in France, Third World
development in Africa, or a language in Asia,
South America or Europe. Last year more than 350
students participated in a study-abroad
The immediate past prime
minister of Poland was a visiting lecturer at ASU
in the fall of 1998, which led, in part, to
Borkowski receiving the Diamond Laureate Award,
the highest honor bestowed by the Poland
International Center for Promotion. As a
second-generation American with Polish roots, the
award was especially welcomed.
has just completed its 100th year, having been
founded as the Watauga Academy in Boone in 1899.
Enrollment is 12,200, and the average SAT score
for freshmen is an impressive 1,095. Of the 535
full-time faculty, 475 hold a doctorate or first
The main campus occupies
250 acres in the beautiful mountain town of
Boone. The university also operates
living-learning centers in Washington, D.C., and
in New York City.
We are seriously
looking at establishing an academic center in
Mexico, Borkowski says. We need to
learn more about Latin American business
With all building space
on campus occupied, there is no additional room
for the university to grow. However, even if this
were not the case, the leadership of ASU would
think long and hard before plunging ahead.
Big is better is not a philosophy
that guides ASU's strategic plan. A continued
emphasis on small classes, undergraduate
instruction, and a friendly atmosphere is a
recruitment tool for students and educators.
better may be the more accurate motto
guiding Appalachian's future. Certainly
technology will provide a growing number of
off-campus learning opportunities for students.
A perfect example is the
Appalachian Learning Alliance that ASU forged
with several community colleges in the region.
Technology, libraries, faculty and other
education resources will be shared.
Collaborations may include distance learning,
Web-based instruction, graduate education,
life-long learning opportunities, certificate
programs, special corporate programs and regional
public service initiatives.
ASU's reputation as a
first-class training institution for teachers
remains strong and Borkowski assures this
emphasis will remain. But ASU does much more than
train teachers. Forty-three percent of students
major in arts and sciences, 24 percent in fine
and applied arts, 21 percent in business, and 17
percent in education. About one-fourth of all
North Carolina's city and county managers are ASU
graduates from the department of political
science and criminal justice. The pass rate of
ASU accounting students taking the CPA exam is
two to three times the state and national
averages. Bank of America has identified the
Walker College of Business as one of six target
schools nationwide for recruiting for its
management associate program in internal audit.
The school newspaper, The
Appalachian, is a consistent award winner at
the national level and has been judged an
All-American paper attaining four of five marks
of distinction each of the past seven years.
plays an integral role at any top-notch
university. The ASU football team regularly
competes for the NCAA Division 1-AA championship
and other teams have achieved similar success.
But academic success by student athletes is also
viewed as important. For example, the women's
basketball team has the 24th highest NCAA
Division I team grade point average.
Being part of a
team or excelling in individual competition is
certainly an outstanding learning experience that
will likely last a lifetime, the chancellor
The Seby Jones Arena for
basketball in Appalachian's new George Holmes
Convocation Center undoubtedly will raise ASU's
visibility in athletics, and the center will
increase Boone's status as a tourist and
convention mecca. Jones is a former mayor of
Raleigh and Holmes is a veteran member of the
North Carolina legislature.
UNC President Emeritus
Dick Spangler, who hired Borkowski, calls ASU
an emerald in the mountains of North
Carolina . . . it has just recently been polished
into a jewel.
Spangler admits that his
admonishment to the ASU leader not to be on
the job 365 days a year has been
Vision and leadership
are also mentioned prominently in describing
Borkowski. Former U.S. senator Jim Broyhill, an
ASU trustee and former board chairman, says,
Frank has a definite vision of where
Appalachian should be positioned as an
educational institution in the next century. He
is providing outstanding leadership in making
sure the school meets its obligations and
responsibilities as a premier university.
and optimistic are other adjectives used often to
describe the chancellor.
Borkowski has generated a spirit of optimism and
achievement that is felt all across the campus at
Appalachian, former UNC president Bill
State Treasurer Harlan
Boyles adds, I have been most impressed
with the energy and enthusiasm that Dr. Borkowski
has brought to Appalachian State University. His
boundless energy and his eagerness to leap all
hurdles that might impede progress at this great
university are remarkable. His great success in
bringing together the business and civic
community and forging their support for the
university will be his great legacy, I'm sure.
The manner in which ASU's endowment has grown
under his leadership will have a far reaching
impact upon the future of the university and its
ability to increase the manner in which it serves
our leaders tomorrow.
From the campus comes
this assessment from Bob Shaffer, associate vice
chancellor of public affairs: His efforts
are indeed a work in progress. His six years at
Appalachian are forging a vision built upon those
qualities that make Appalachian unique.
has a unique way of connecting with students
his thumbs-up policy. Shortly
after he arrived at ASU in 1993, he asked
students to give him a thumbs up or thumbs down
sign when he saw them anywhere. Thumbs up brings
a smile, while a thumbs down prompts the
chancellor to find out the reasons.
He uses other forms of
staying in touch with students. He frequently
dines with students in the university cafeteria,
spends the night in a dorm room, and hosts
monthly breakfasts for student leaders.
strategy is paying off. Students are surveyed at
all UNC campuses every two years. Last spring
Appalachian finished first in the UNC System for
quality instruction, academic advising, student
leadership development opportunities, campus
counseling and administrative services such as
registration, financial aid and campus food
But many challenges
remain for ASU's future, including public
funding, increasing the number of minority
students and finding more female and minority
for public dollars will continue to become more
intense, Borkowski notes.
Health care costs will
continue to increase, especially as the
population gets older and lives longer, he points
out. The need to educate more people and the
growing expectations of business and industry for
increased skills in the workplace will place
added pressures on resources.
Increased demands for
more accountability, more assessments, and
growing micromanagement from political bodies and
governing boards will continue.
However, Borkowski feels
the excellent reputation of the UNC System will
enable North Carolina's colleges and universities
to continue to excel. He credits the
outstanding leadership of current UNC President
Molly Broad and former UNC leaders Bill Friday
and Dick Spangler.
The leadership of
this state is committed to keeping UNC
accessible. The commitment of resources has been
solid. ASU has raised more than $40 million
of a $50 million campaign to supplement state
funding and tuition dollars.
Music, traveling, and
jogging are all enjoyable hobbies which provide
some relaxation; however, all keep him connected
with students, faculty, and alumni in one way or
Very much a family man,
Borkowski and his wife are an inseparable team
representing Appalachian both on and off campus.
Spangler puts it this way: Kay is a
distinguished flutist in addition to her
substantial responsibilities as first lady.
Together they make a powerful team to support the
students, the faculty and the other
constituencies on that campus.
Friday adds, He
and Mrs. Borkowski make a splendid, inspiring
team, giving so unselfishly of themselves to all
The Borkowskis are proud
parents of three grown children. Stanley, 36, is
employed in the computer industry in Columbia,
S.C. Anne-Marie, 35, is married to Robert Scott.
Both are writers. She is travel editor for the Michelin
Travel Guide, and he is the business editor
for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The
Scotts have blessed the Borkowskis with a
2-year-old granddaughter, Mary Elizabeth (Molly).
Christian, 33, is the youngest and teaches
political science and social studies at Reynolds
High School in Winston-Salem. His wife, Karen, is
in charge of policy loans at BB&T.
administrator, world traveler, husband, father
and grandfather -- there's no relaxing or
coasting for Chancellor Frank Borkowski as he
continues to push ASU to further excellence in
the 21st Century.
Phil Kirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. This article
first appeared in the January 2000 issue of North