CSU president leading fundraising efforts by example

Central State University campus
An aerial view of the Central State University campus and its clock tower

Thomas donated 20% of his salary for new scholarship fund.

Central State University President Jack Thomas' plan to beef up the institution’s coffers through a multimillion dollar fundraiser for scholarships and other programs is taking shape.

The fundraiser is part of Thomas' strategic plan to attract the “best and brightest” students by offering them scholarships and more robust academic programs such as the recently created honors college. Since July 1, when Thomas arrived on campus, the university has raised a total of $554,000. Officials continue to reach out to donors in hopes of building on that amount.

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Thomas laid the fundraising groundwork about two weeks after his tenure began by making a one-time $50,000 contribution ― 20% of his annual $250,000 salary ― to establish the President Jack Thomas Scholarship Fund. He then asked for matching funds. To date, $179,000 has been contributed to the fund, bringing the total to more than $229,000, said Zillah Fluker, vice-president of institutional advancement.

“We have a lot of research dollars,” Fluker said. “But Dr. Thomas was committed to wanting to really focus on growing our scholarship fund that’s segmented in the presidential leadership scholarship, so that he could encourage more students to attend Central State.”

The president formed a committee that consists of university officials, including the provost and dean of enrollment management, to recommend candidates for the scholarship. Students will be selected based on their full-time status with the university, overall academic performance and good citizenship. Candidates will also be required to provide a personal statement, transcript and test scores.

Central State University President Dr. Jack Thomas with his wife, Dr. Linda Thomas. CONTRIBUTED
Central State University President Dr. Jack Thomas with his wife, Dr. Linda Thomas. CONTRIBUTED

Thomas was compelled to set the fundraising example for various reasons. He and his wife, Linda Thomas, have a history of philanthropy as it relates to education, Fluker said. The president serves on the board of the Seattle-based Marguerite Casey Foundation, a private, independent grantmaking foundation.

In addition, Thomas became president amid furloughs and budget cuts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. So it was important for him to send a strong message to employees that he is willing to give up part of his pay, Fluker said.

“I would not ask others to endure sacrifices that I am not willing to endure myself,” Thomas said in July when announcing that he would make the contribution.

Shortly after making the $50,000 pledge, Thomas wrote a check for the full amount, and it was deposited into the university’s account, Fluker said.

ExploreCentral State president pledges $50K to start student scholarship fund

That was not the only contribution Thomas made to the university, Fluker said. In July, he contributed $800 to help CSU win $15,000 in a social media competition involving other HBCUs. He’s also paid $500 to become a lifetime member of the university’s National Alumni Association.

The university has leveraged Thomas’s contributions to the institution to get corporations and individuals, including alumni, to contribute, Fluker said. Nationwide Insurance, for instance, gave $100,000 to the university, and 20% of the money must go toward a lab in the computer science department. The remaining 80% is unrestricted, so a portion of the money may go to the presidential scholarship fund, she said.

In addition, Chase Bank donated $20,000 for the College of Business and Student Affairs Career Center initiatives.

Mark Hatcher, chairman of the Central State Board of Trustees, commended Thomas for setting the tone and encouraging others to contribute to the university. Successful giving starts with leadership, Hatcher said.

“This leadership by example has encouraged all of us in Marauder Land to step up and support the university,” he said. "Now more than ever, financial contributions are critical, given the current climate, reduced funding and overall student needs. We are extremely proud of what Dr. Thomas and his team have accomplished so far and we are looking forward to the realization of his bold vision.”

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