For 17 years Dr. Jackie Vietti has led Butler Community College as its president. During those years, she has touched numerous lives and made a tremendous impact not just on the college, but also the community.
Community members had an opportunity to offer their thanks and wish Vietti well on her retirement during a special reception for her Monday evening.
“For me this is a really bittersweet moment,” said Karla Fisher, interim president. “It is sweet for her and bitter for us.”
She said Vietti is the reason she is at Butler.
“She invested in me immediately an amazing amount of trust,” Fisher said, with tears in her eyes.
She used a quote from “Wicked,” saying “People come into your life for a reason.”
“I know she came into my life for a reason,” Fisher said. “I know my life has been changed for the better because of you.”
Vice President for Student Services Bill Rinkenbaugh also talked about his experiences working with Vietti.
“I have had people ask what it’s like working with Jackie,” he said.
He said other than when she shoots the messenger, which isn’t often and she always gives warning, it has been good.
He talked about the core values she has instilled in the college, which include quality, integrity, caring and service.
“We have these because of Jackie,” Rinkenbaugh said.
He went on to offer some tips for Vietti on her retirement.
One was to keep his phone number handy for any technical support she may need on new devices or phones.
The second was not to leave her cell phone in a cab in Washington, D.C.
Third, he told her not to submerge her phone in liquid, particularly scotch. And finally, he told her she no longer had to set her alarm for 4 a.m. when the weatherman says there is a chance of snow to see if there will be school that day.
“You never really leave Butler,” Rinkenbaugh said. “Congratulations on your retirement. We are all going to miss you.”
Butler Board of Trustees President Greg Joyce also congratulated Vietti.
He said this was a day they knew would come sometime, but they were not ready to settle on this reality.
“It has been a rare privilege to work alongside Jackie,” he said. “Her vision for Butler will be difficult to match.”
Page 2 of 4 - He also pointed out that she never missed an opportunity to say “good job” to others.
“Jackie is a yes-I-can kind of person or a yes we can if the situation fits,” Joyce continued.
He told the story of how Vietti was told it would be a conflict of interest for her to apply for the president’s job at Butler because her current boss at the time was heading up the search committee. Later in a video, Vietti said all someone has to do is tell her she can’t do something to make her do it.
“Jackie, thanks for all you’ve done to make Butler and the rest of our community such a great place,” Joyce said. “As you always say, you never really leave Butler and we will leave the light on.”
Tom Murry talked about another aspect of Butler on which Vietti had an influence.
“A significant number of people upped their physical and financial presence because of Jackie,” he said.
He said he has watched the school go from a local presence, to a regional presence.
“That had a tremendous amount to do with her leadership,” he said. “She was a major influence in overcoming hurdles.”
“I just can’t believe she’s retiring,” said Mayor Tom McKibban. “Can we revote on this?
“Jackie has been such a benefit, not just to our college, but to our community. Jackie, you will be missed by the city, community, students and me personally.”
John Grange also talked about Vietti and her start at the college. Grange served on the search committee that hired Vietti.
“She did make the cut,” he said.
She made it to the final three and they decided to have them each come in for supper to visit with them one more time. When Vietti arrived at the college, she parked on the other side of the parking lot and there was a sudden downpour when she was walking to the building.
“This wet puppy in a red jumpsuit came in,” Grange recalled. “She said ‘I know, I forgot my umbrella.’”
Well, she made an impact. In Grange’s basement over the pool table the committee made the call to tell her she had the job.
“To this day, I think it was a good decision,” Grange said.
USD 490 Superintendent Sue Givens also spoke about Vietti.
“We’ve been a team for the last six years,” Givens said. “A true friend she has been. She has been a Batman to this very inexperienced and green Robin.”
Page 3 of 4 - One thing Givens said she learned from Vietti, which she hopes to always remember, is leadership with grace.
Ted Vlamis, president and CEO of Pioneer Balloon, also spoke about the number of great graduates they have received from Butler.
“It’s been a joy for me,” said Ray Connell. “Jackie is by far my best client. It’s been an enjoyable 17 years for me and you will be missed. You’ve touched thousands of lives.”
Reiterating the number of lives she has touched, Randy Bush, Butler’s international student advisor, talked about the impact she has had on the international community at Butler by her presence at their events.
“I wanted to let you know you touched a community that ripples out over an entire world,” he said.
Butler Library Director Micaela Ayers said before she had heard anything else about the college, she heard that the president of Butler was the smartest woman and president of a community college.
“Thank you for being so smart,” Ayers said.
Vietti also had a huge impact on the Butler Foundation.
“Jackie not only saw value and worth in the Foundation, she made it a focal point of this college,” said Steve Funk, former Foundation president.
Andy Tompkins, from the Kansas Board of Regents, also attended the ceremony.
“As I was coming down I had five of the board of regents call and ask me if I was coming down,” he said, “and to tell Jackie we’re going to miss her.”
He described her as a person who can do anything.
“On behalf of the board and staff, we thank you for all your great service,” he said.
Vince Haines also thanked Vietti for having confidence in their architectural firm PKHLS to complete projects they had not done before.
One example of Vietti’s dedication to the students was given by Randy Moss. He told of when his son was at the college and leaving for nationals. They were taking him a care package early in the morning before the bus left and Vietti also was there with a care package for the students.
Vietti thanked everyone for their comments and also wanted to put some rumors to rest.
“I am not sick,” she said. “ I am not going anywhere else.
“Here is the reason I’m retiring,” she said and pointed at her granddaughter.
“Thank you so very, very much for gathering tonight to celebrate a 17-year great run. What Butler has accomplished over the last 17 years is due to the Butler family. The last 17 years is a direct tribute to each and every one of you out there, she said.”
Page 4 of 4 - “If I have done my job, Butler will go on without missing a beat.”