Central State’s president to step down

Central State University President Jack Thomas will step down as university president and become a tenured professor when his contract expires at the end of June, according to an announcement from Thomas to the university community Monday.

The announcement lists Thomas’ accomplishments since joining the university in July 2020, such as growing corporate partnerships, overseeing a campus expansion and growing enrollment.

“Having accomplished what I set out to do as president, I have informed the board of trustees that I will not seek renewal of my contract,” Thomas wrote, adding that he will stay on at CSU as a tenured professor after an educational sabbatical.

He notes in his announcement that when he came to campus it was empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. And in addition to leading the university through that, he oversaw the creation of a new strategic plan dubbed “Reach Higher, Go Further, Thrive!”

“It has been a privilege serving as president during this historic period as we made monumental strides in moving the university forward,” he wrote. “During my final days as president, I will continue to work to ensure that everything is in place for the new leadership to begin the next chapter in Central State University’s history.”

Central State University Board of Trustees Chair Mark Hatcher released a statement Monday, saying: “The board thanks Dr. Thomas for his service to the university and the progress that the university has made during his time as president. The board will immediately begin plans for a search for Dr. Thomas’ successor.”

Thomas’ announcement makes no reference to recent controversies involving Thomas, including 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 followed complaints brought by five women who had administrative roles at the university and alleged mistreatment. Two of the women have since filed a lawsuit against the university.

Thomas became the ninth president of the university when he was hired in July 2020. He 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.