FPU’s Bartsch Institute builds on work of pioneer

Walter Buster named director

Supporting educators and honoring the memory of faculty member Silas Bartsch are the reasons Fresno Pacific University created the Bartsch Civic and Character Education Institute.

The institute’s mission is to help elementary, junior-high and high school teachers and administrators set good examples in a changing world. Challenges of society, such as shfting family dynamics and a growing gap between rich and poor, are everyday life for many students. Educators have the potential to reach all children and become positive role models.

Founded on the idea that there is no such thing as a “values-free” education or life, the institute promotes integrity as the ability to tell right from wrong and act openly on convictions even at personal cost. Beyond maintaining personal integrity, educators should define and communicate ethics, create ways to reinforce honest behavior and lead discussions on value conflicts.

“Character education and civic engagement are at the heart of our mission,” said Wendy Wakeman, dean of the Fresno Pacific School of Professional Studies (SPS), which will oversee the institute. Among the goals are to promote ethical leadership and teaching, encourage enriching academic activities and make a difference in the lives of students.

Walter Buster, recently retired superintendent for the Clovis (Calif.) Unified School District, directs the institute. “We are delighted that someone of his stature and experience will lead this new effort,” FPU President D. Merrill Ewert said. “I am excited about the leadership that he will bring to this important initiative.” 

Buster looks forward to the challenge. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to continue the work that I have been doing for the last two years in expressing the importance of character and civic education to today’s educators,” he said.  

In addition to promoting effective methods of character education, the institute will engage in applied research, organize conferences and develop training materials. “This institute is driven by a commitment to strengthen schools and their capacity to help build our civil society,” Wakeman said. “This was Si’s passion, particularly at the end of his career.” 

As the first SPS dean, Bartsch strove to better the work of teachers and the lives of students. After a career in the public schools, Bartsch came to FPU in 1970 and spent 31 years teaching sociology and education, helping expand both the teacher education program and the graduate school and serving as interim president. SPS today includes the Center for Professional Development (CPD), which provides continuing education for educators and other professionals, and the Center for Degree Completion (CDC), which helps working adults complete their bachelor’s degree.

Formation of the institute was announced June 26 as part of the 2nd Annual Civic and Character Education Conference. Titled “Renewing the Civic Mission of American Education,” the conference is put on by FPU and the Fresno County Office of Education. A contribution from the Bartsch family helped establish the institute.