They say life comes at you fast. Just past his first 100 days, marked on Oct. 19, 2022, as president of Ferris State University, Bill Pink can now attest to that after a whirlwind that began on Monday, July 11, 2022 – his first official day as president.
Realistically, it started when Board of Trustees chair Amna P. Seibold announced him as the “selected finalist” to become president on March 28. Then, the momentum picked up steam on May 6 as the entire Board of Trustees officially and unanimously voted its approval. From there, things shifted into overdrive on July 11, the day a group of 100-plus students, faculty, staff, community members and alums welcomed him outside the Timme Center for Student Services, a building that includes his office.
“Whirlwind is a good description,” Pink said. “These first hundred days have been full, and I say full because I have found myself doing so much in working not only on understanding and learning more about the university but digging deeper. I have been learning about all facets of our internal and external processes, our operations, and perceptions of Ferris State University.”
From day one, Pink has been a president of the people. He has been making presentations, of course, but he has taken far more joy in listening to and digesting the experiences of the students, faculty, staff and community members he encounters daily – on and off campus. Whether he is working on the clock, visiting downtown Big Rapids or elsewhere in Mecosta County for a bite to eat, a coffee or a friendly chat, the new president relishes these interactions.
“Some of the early work on campus has been getting out and seeing people, meeting people – the folks who are our faculty and staff. We are having some great conversations as I learn more and more about Ferris,” Pink said. “The biggest joy, I would say, has been spending time with our students. The way we have engaged our students, whether it be from the beginning with meeting RAs (resident advisors) before the semester started or on the cart and helping our students during move-in days, was fun.”
It did not stop there.
“I enjoyed riding around on a cart and giving rides to some of our students to help them get to their classes,” Pink said. “Of course, I asked them all kinds of questions to find out more about them – who they are, where they came from, what degree they’re pursuing, what they want to do with it after graduation and where they want to go.
Many students did not leave the conversation empty-handed, “I would end some of these conversations by handing them a Starbucks gift card to reward them for enduring my questions.”
Pink has had a lot of Ferris firsts, including experiencing Bulldog Beginnings, which includes Board of Trustees meetings and Founders’ Day, an annual extravaganza on the Robinson Quad on the first Thursday of the academic year. The event, which features games, prizes, giveaways, an ice cream social and more, is part of annually honoring founders Woodridge and Helen Ferris. His first at Ferris included his inauguration over two days, Oct. 6-7, and the Link with Pink Tour that took him off campus and into communities across the state of Michigan.
“The Link with Pink events were really, really awesome,” he said. “We had quite a few alumni show up and had excellent conversations. I had an opportunity to hear their Ferris story. I also had opportunities to chat with them about where we’re going and my vision for Ferris. I want to get our alumni excited about where their university is going while encouraging them to help spread the word.”
During the tour, Pink noted opportunities to visit with several community college presidents – including some he knew from his time at GRCC. Some showed up at the event, while others he saw when he had opportunities to arrive early in these communities where Ferris has longstanding relationships and partnerships.
“We were able to talk about where our relationship is now and where we can go in the future,” Pink said. “Most of them I knew from my previous job. Many of these are also friendship visits.”
Link with Pink also included opportunities to strengthen relationships in statewide regions critical to Ferris’ success.
“One of the things I have been talking about on these Link with Pink Tours is the work that we need to do not only here in Big Rapids, but what we need to do in Grand Rapids, which is our second largest footprint, as a University, and the work that we need to do in the city of Detroit,” Pink said. “I believe we have a strong opportunity for Ferris with our unique programming in the city of Detroit and Southeast Michigan as a region.”
Pink has viewed these first 100 days as akin to an engagement, listening and observing tour that has included meeting with Ferris student-athletes, coaches, and fans while attending on-campus sporting events. Having accommodated dozens of media interviews, photo and video requests, Pink’s energy is still running high – as is his desire to learn.
“I always like to go through the first year and see everything being done. But as I go through, I also look for opportunities to add to what is currently being done,” he said. “I like and encourage people to think about how we can begin to adjust some things to make what we’re doing more impactful for people. During this, it has been great learning Ferris’ traditions. During these first 100 days, I am looking at everything and enjoying the moment while also looking at it with an eye on if there are things we can improve moving forward.”
Pink was already pondering the next 100 days and beyond – a stretch that includes more firsts: The Ferris Foundation for Excellence Benefit on Friday, Nov. 4, and presiding over his first commencement ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 17.
“I feel like I’ve learned some things about where we are as a university, locally and statewide,” he said. “That has given me a good sense of where I think we need to go.”
Of special note, during Pink’s first 100 days, was the Gotion announcement of a proposed battery component manufacturing facility in Big Rapids, a $2.364 billion investment in the state of Michigan. Pink actively participated in an Oct. 5 announcement, as a warm-up speaker at the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building on the campus of Ferris’ Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, that featured remarks delivered by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“We’ll have to keep a strong, close eye on that opportunity,” Pink said. “We will try our best, and I will try my best in my position to get this over the finish line for the people in the Big Rapids region.”
Also, locally, he has continued to champion causes that are important to him and others, such as the United Way.
“As a board member for the United Way, actually even as the board chair, I am so much of a supporter and just a champion and cheerleader for the United Way,” said Pink, who is chair of the Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Board of Directors and who addressed local members of the United Way of Mecosta and Osceola counties in late September at Ferris.
In 100-plus days on the job, Pink has felt the Ferris pride but wants more.
“A major part of my message is to have pride in your university,” he said. “I think it is so important if you work here, if you’re a student, or an alum – that you have pride in this institution. We’re not perfect, and we have a lot to work on, but we’re doing a lot of things well and have been for over 130 years.”
Pink added, “Tell people your Ferris State University story with pride. Many good things have happened in these doors and on this campus, and there are many good things ahead for Ferris State University.”