When RobertDocFoglesong officially becomes Mississippi State Universitys 18th president this week (Friday, Oct. 6) in Starkville, a good friend from Morgantown will be in attendance to take part in the installation ceremony.
That would be David C. Hardesty Jr., the current president of West Virginia University, Foglesongs alma mater.
The two academic leaders have been genuine buddies for years, giving credence to that old saying about how the more friends are differentthe more theyre the same.
And while Hardesty and Foglesong arent exactly the odd couple of academia, they do appear, at first glance, as dissimilar as a duo could possibly be.
Theres a matter of personalities and approach, for starters: Foglesong sings a mean Lynyrd Skynyrd in a gloriously ragged cover band while the more reserved Hardesty is known to quote Winston Churchill on occasion.
Hardestys faithfulfirst dogdog, Monty, is almost as well-known on campus as its owner. Foglesong, on the other paw, favors cats.
Foglesong is often seen around town in his leather flight jacket. Hardesty is a blue suit, gold and blue tie-man.
Running in the Boston marathon is the sport of choice for Foglesong, while Hardesty works out at the Student Rec and once anchored the rowing team.
Hardesty can talk without notes on the legislative process. Foglesong is your man when it comes to the intricacies of laser-guided missiles.
Foglesong is just beginning his career as a college president. Hardesty will end his, when he retires next September.
Whether different or alike, though, both have two definite things in common: they both came from small-town West Virginia to attend WVU , and they both left with the tools that enabled them to carve out impressive resumes.
The Harvard-trained Hardesty is a Rhodes Scholar and attorney from Shinnston. And Foglesong is a Ph.D.-turned-fighter pilot from Williamson, who would eventually land as four-star commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe.
Both are known for their innovations as administrators, and both crossed paths at WVU but became even better friends after Hardesty assumed the presidency of WVU in 1995. Hardesty graduated in 1968 and never lost touch with his alma mater.
Same deal withDoc,who went as high as he could go with his top degree in chemical engineering from WVU in 1971, but always stayed in touch with his roots.
Its a �€~West Virginia thing,Mingo County native Foglesong said this week in Starkville.Ive been all over the world, and I can tell you that you wont find more solid, honest and friendly people than West Virginiansunless, of course, youre looking at the good folks of Mississippi. Ill tell you something else: I couldnt respect David Hardesty more for what hes done for our alma mater and our home state.
Hardesty, who grew up in rural Harrison County, is just as generous with his praise for Foglesong.
Theres a reason Doc has had the success that he has,the WVU president said.Its because he really is a �€~leaderin the best sense. He knows how to motivate. He likes
people and they like him. If you just knew him on paper, youd think he was this ramrod-straight general barking orders. He doesnt do that, because he doesnt have to. For a guy who used to walk around with four stars on both shoulders, he couldnt be more down-to-earth.
Both have the lofty mission of leading land-grant universities in states where sadly, poverty still exists.
Hardesty sees WVU and the state of West Virginia as one and the same. Intertwined, and in it together. His university, he said, has asacred obligationto help build up his state.
You cant turn it around all at once,Hardesty said.But you can turn it around over time.
One classroom, one professor, one student,he said.Thats where it starts. Show that young person he or she has value. Put on another layer of education and training. Show them that there doesnt have to be a difference between �€~successand �€~service.And thats just as much a �€~Mississippi thingas it is a �€~West Virginia thing.
There will be plenty of a Mississippi-West Virginia thing this week in Starkville. Foglesongs formal inaugural is 1 p.m. Friday (Oct. 6) at Humphrey Coliseum.
The next day, its �€~Eers-versus-�€~Dogs as the nationally ranked WVU Mountaineers smack helmets with the Mississippi State Bulldogs at 2:30 p.m. on the turf of Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field.
You wont get either president to go on record with a prediction for that one. But there is one more thing to chew on: Will BARK (Foglesongs part-time, classic-rock band at MSU ) play a set, as it has been known to do at home games?
And if so, will Hardesty sit in?
Well, I think,the WVU president said, chuckling,I just might have to defer the microphone to Doc if he decides to strike up the band.