Central State picks search firm to find next president

Current CSU president to step down at the end of June.

Central State University’s board of trustees has picked search firm AGB Search to find the next president for the university.

Current CSU president Jack Thomas announced in mid-May he would be stepping down as president and become a tenured professor when his contract expires at the end of June.

Central State officials said they hope to have a new president within a year and expect to name an interim president by June 30.

AGB Search bills itself as “the search firm of choice for higher education,” and is currently working on searches for other universities like the University of Wisconsin Madison and SUNY Erie, a community college in New York state.

Central State trustees said in a resolution approving AGB that they had chosen between three search firms. The university has not released how much it’s paying the firm.

Thomas said during his last board of trustees meeting Friday he was proud of the work he had accomplished during his tenure at Central State, which began in July 2020.

He noted CSU had just 18 corporate partners in 2020 when he began, and the university now has more than 60 corporate partners. The university is anticipating a $2 million gift from Sodexo, a management services company, and expects to receive a $9.8 million credit through a federal program.

“As I prepare to pass the baton, I’m confident that Central State is in a stronger position than ever before,” Thomas said. “Our strategies for the future are clear. Our partnerships are robust, and our students continue to flourish to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Board member Jacqueline Gamblin thanked Thomas for his service to the board, and the board members gave Thomas a standing ovation when he finished speaking. Gamblin is taking over from Mark Hatcher as the Central State board of trustees president for next fiscal year.

“On behalf of the board of trustees, Dr. Thomas, we want to thank you, for all the accomplishments that you have had in your report today,” Gamblin said. “You’ve made a difference at Central State University, and we wish you the best in your future endeavors.”

However, Thomas didn’t make any direct remarks in his president’s report or in announcing he would not stay after his contract is up in June regarding a report in February by an outside law firm hired by university trustees that described Thomas’ “leadership style” as “rude, belittling and bullying,” but not rising to the level of discrimination or harassment.

The investigation came after five women with administrative roles at the university alleged mistreatment, including unfair demotion. Two of the women have since filed a lawsuit against the university.

Thomas replaced former president Cynthia Jackson-Hammond who resigned after eight years to lead a national higher education accreditation organization.

Thomas’ three-year contract calls for him to be paid $300,000 in the final year, plus benefits including a $12,000 annual vehicle allowance and $54,000 annual housing allowance.

Neither Thomas nor university officials said what course Thomas might teach at the university after stepping down. He holds a doctorate in English literature and criticism.

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