Wongs Visit Campus


Les and Phyllis Wong were introduced to faculty and staff attending Wednesday’s forum. They have returned to campus this week for the first time since Les was named Northern’s 13th president. He is meeting with students and employees in an effort to acquaint himself with various aspects of the university in advance of starting his new appointment.


Wong used a baseball metaphor to describe the transition period between institutions.


“I feel like I’m trying to steal second base with my foot still on first,” he said. “When you become president of a university, the community that helped you achieve that goal – in my case, Valley City State – becomes very special and it is emotionally hard to leave. But eventually you have to pick your foot up and make a move toward that new opportunity. I am ready to run. At VCSU, I was part of a team that is innovative and action-oriented. That experience has given me confidence, which I am thrilled to carry with me to Marquette … NMU is healthy and thriving. The essential ingredients for a great university are already here.”


Wong said the adjustment to his first presidency will be made easier by Mike Roy’s effective leadership in the interim. He will rely on Roy and others to help educate him on fiscal, legislative and other issues facing higher education in Michigan.


“I need to get up to speed quickly on those and learn names and places,” Wong added. “I hope to knock on the governor’s door to introduce myself and let her know that there is a very important university in the Upper Peninsula. I also need to become familiar with the U.P. delegation.


“My own mentors were good role models. I don’t think a president can make decisions on the first day. I like to think of myself as pro-person – someone who is a catalyst for ideas and action. I make a point to listen to people so I can be in touch with the dreams and aspirations of others – whether they are students, faculty, staff or community members. A university should be intimate partners with the community. The boundary should disappear and become porous. That will be part of my responsibility.”


As director of online learning at VCSU, Phyllis said she works closely with faculty and on course management. She also teaches a Web course in English for Baker University.


“I am looking forward to another laptop university and the potential it has to enhance face-to-face learning,” she said. “I would like to help the university advance in this area in any way I can.”


Les added: “The challenge with technology is how it makes the practice of teaching and learning more human. It shouldn’t divert from our efforts to turn out better citizens.”

The couple praised the area’s quality of life, natural environment and friendly residents.

"In walking around and talking with people, it is clear to me that this may be a cold climate, but the people have warm hearts," Phyllis said. "We feel very welcome here."

The Wongs plan to make a permanent move to Marquette in June. Les will begin serving as NMU president by July 1.



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Updated: April 23, 2004