Remembering Bob Krause: A K-State legacy

Mike Matson

Bob Krause (right), former longtime Kansas State University vice president for institutional advancement, is pictured with his wife, Dr. Marty Vanier '79, '81. The K-State family is saddened by the loss of Krause on Dec. 16. (Courtesy photo)

The Kansas State University family lost a true friend when Bob Krause died Dec. 16 in Manhattan. From 1986 through 2009, Bob served as K-State’s vice president for institutional advancement. Krause’s family asked family friend and Manhattan writer Mike Matson to remember his life and career.

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Why do we call a university an "institution of higher learning"? 

It’s a place where human beings come to learn about themselves, their place in the world. A place where people come to discover how best to use their God-given gifts. 

By their very nature, institutions of higher learning are vast and complex systems. Those privileged to work and represent such a system tend generally to spend their time and energy in one particular part — and only when taken together, do the parts equal the whole. 

Success for the individual is as dynamic and complex as success for the institution and does not happen by accident. It’s the result of planning, execution, energy and passion.  

One can make a compelling argument that for a generation at the first land grant university in the nation, Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, no one had more hands-on, direct, positive impact than Bob Krause. The case can be made that for a generation, no one made a more tangible, measureable difference in advancing K-State than Bob Krause. 

When he first arrived in Manhattan in 1986, he was new president Jon Wefald’s first external hire. Wefald assigned Krause a monumental task. One that, quite literally, held K-State’s future.  

Faced with entirely too many consecutive years of dwindling enrollment, K-State was sinking, in reputation and perception. There was talk of bouncing the Wildcats from the Big 8. No one likes a loser, whether on the gridiron or buried within the minutiae of the enrollment spreadsheets. 

Hearts and minds were on the line.      

The Board of Regents hired Wefald to right the ship, and Wefald hired Bob Krause to design and implement the plan. 

Wefald recognized reversing the enrollment trend line was the key to any sort of institutional advancement. If they didn’t get that right, nothing else would be possible. So Wefald did what all good managers do. He brought in a subject matter expert, an individual he knew well and trusted. 

Bob didn’t re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. He did the due diligence, identified the problem, devised a plan, rolled up his sleeves, went below decks and patched the hole. He righted the ship. Slowly, steadily, it floated back to the surface and became a magnificent, proud, seaworthy vessel. Record numbers of people boarded it, and their lives were made better because of it.

It was the triumph of turning K-State from an enrollment decliner into an enrollment gainer that set the stage for myriad successes that would follow, and Bob Krause’s fingerprints were on all of them.

As vice president for institutional advancement, Krause’s portfolio was vast and far-reaching. Think, for just a minute, about the words, "Institutional Advancement." 

Words have meaning. 
 
The job was broad and far-reaching, on purpose. There’s a lot of work wrapped up in it. It’s the job of an individual with a very unique package of skills. The ability to bring the right people together. The talent of keeping your eyes on the end game, and the gift of trusting those around you — working as a team — to get you there. 

Long before we thought in terms of “a brand” for the university, Bob Krause created one for K-State.   

As vice president for institutional advancement, Krause’s job was just that — to advance the institution. That meant forging and nurturing relationships across an entire horizon of groups and factions who, in some way, touch K-State.

Student life, philanthropy, athletics, elected officials at the national, state and local level, private sector partnerships. Any individual or group with a vested interest in advancing K-State, in making it better, in helping enhance the student experience was on Bob Krause’s radar screen.   

More than a fixer, trial balloon floater, liaison and go-to guy — though he was all those things — Krause not only represented the K-State administration in these circles, he brought skill and savviness to every project he undertook.

Absent Bob Krause, there would be no "greatest turnaround in the history of college football."

He took risks. Not wild ones, but calculated ones, and only after sizing up the players, the field, the conditions, to allow for the best possible result for K-State. The record speaks for itself. 

He was so good at the job, the successful K-State model of a high-level university administrator devoted solely to institutional advancement has been emulated many times at other universities across the United States. 

Thousands of K-State students whom he mentored and today span the globe remember how Bob Krause helped them learn about themselves and taught them how to advance their own causes and passions. 

That’s the part of Bob that lasts. 

Bob had another talent. The ability to recognize — that even despite your job and broad portfolio — you’re still just one individual within a vast, complex system.

Vast, complex systems are not perfect. Circumstances and situations which are sometimes not pleasant come with the territory. Egos, selective memories, personalities, grudges. Scratch a layer or two beneath the surface of any institution of higher learning, and one will find all the frailties that come with the human condition.  

At what turned out to be the end of Bob’s career, K-State proved to be a system like any other. Buffeted, influenced and driven by all the pressures that drive vast, complex systems. Sometimes — despite a career’s worth of noble, virtuous work — the system isolates an individual. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s not the complete picture, the entire truth. There is a greater good to protect, the system says. 

Those who knew Bob Krause and were privileged to call him a friend understand innately what we lost. A truly gifted administrator, a savvy and successful risk taker for all the right reasons, a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother. A true mentor and loyal friend. 

Now that he’s gone from us, maybe there’s some higher learning we can all gain about judging a human being for their gifts and their character. 

Perhaps we can learn that remembering a man for the entire breadth and depth of his life and professional career is decent, honorable and befitting an institution of higher learning. 

Bob Krause’s loyalties, motivations and heart were pure — to a fault, as it turned out. Only when taken together, do the parts equal the whole — the entire view of a man’s life and professional calling. 

K-State is a better university because of Bob Krause. Manhattan is a better community because of Bob Krause. Kansas is a better state because of Bob Krause. 

All of us who were privileged to call him a friend are better human beings because of Bob Krause.   

Mike Matson is a writer in Manhattan. He writes at http://www.mikematson.com/.
 

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