Shonrock believes in service
By Bill Noblitt, Director of Marketing and Media Relations
Waiting backstage in the ESU Albert Taylor Hall “Green Room” to be named the 16th Emporia State University president, Dr. Michael and Karen Shonrock listened attentively as Brian Dorsey, an ESU junior and Hornet football player, talked about his experience at the university. Shonrock, former Texas Tech senior vice president for auxiliary services, enrollment management and student affairs, asked him about his family and where he came from, and why he chose ESU. Brian is a double major in communications and biology, and he’s a pre-med student.
“It was my chance to play football,” Brian said. “I investigated ESU’s biology program and found it to be one of the best in the state.”
Nathan Nash began his friendship with Shonrock at Texas Tech University, where he was a vice president and then president of Tech’s Student Government Association. The SGA was part of Shonrock’s responsibilities. “He was our go-to guy at the administrative level at Tech,” Nash said. “It was immediately evident that he cares about the students and that bleeds over into his relationships with alumni, faculty, staff and the community. Shonrock would always end a conversation with ‘What do you need. What can I do for you.’ ”
Kyle Miller, now in his fourth year residency at Northwestern University Medical School, has similar recollections. While in his second year as a Tech medical student, the Texas governor appointed Miller as the student regent to the Tech University System Board of Regents. “I became one of Dr. Shonrock’s biggest fans,” he recalls. “He had this way of calming storms, and I always valued this unique ability when problems arose.”
Suzanne Taylor, now in her second year of law school at Texas Tech, describes Shonrock as an idealist and optimist as well as a creative strategist. “Rather than approaching something and saying we can’t do this, he would say how can we make it happen,” she says.
One incident highlights this description, according to Taylor. She was SGA president at Tech when the students approved and paid for a lazy river called a “leisure pool” next to the recreation center on campus. “It was a huge success,” she recalls, “but some in the Tech administration wanted to name it after a local bank.” The students were in an uproar over this, and Taylor had to represent their viewpoint. “Ultimately, Dr. Shonrock mentored me as far as how to work with the administration.” She clearly remembers him explaining that it would be better if she went in asking questions rather than to take a hardnosed point of view.
“It worked out for everyone,” she says. “The bank used the money it was going to contribute for student scholarships. Dr. Shonrock is able to work through any situation and make it better.”
Shonrock’s commitment to service began while growing up on the Southside of Chicago. His dad owned a record retail store in town. His mother was a homemaker. His grandfather worked in the hardware department at a Sears and his grandmother worked in another one as a nurse. “She believed that castor oil solved all problems so I rarely was sick,” Shonrock remembers.
He knows he will have a learning curve at ESU. “I’ll depend on the ESU leadership team and the community to help me with that,” he says. “I want to build on the expertise we already have. I want to help build partnerships for ESU. I’ll do a lot of listening.”
His philosophy of leadership begins with service, and leaders should be what he calls “wizards and warriors.”
“Good leaders need to be both,” he explains. “The wizard must have a vision for the future. A warrior must have the patience and persistence to fulfill that vision.”
His experience will also help ESU. The university’s enrollment growth has been stagnant because of a host of factors, including the decline of college-age students in the state of Kansas. Shonrock and his team at Texas Tech produced the largest enrollment growth in that university’s history. Consultants working with Tech projected it would take five years to turn enrollment around. It took six months, according to Shonrock.
Shonrock, the optimistic strategist, sees great things ahead for Emporia State University as it begins to celebrate its 150th anniversary.