Central State University’s next president said every future decision made by his administration will be with the school’s students best interest at heart.
Jack Thomas was named the ninth president of the historically black college located in Greene County during a ceremony Friday involving students, trustees and other Ohio leaders. He will take office on July 1.
Before Thomas introduced himself on his 59th birthday, President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond spoke to attendees, and to Thomas directly, about the role he is stepping into.
“Will there be challenges? Heck yes,” Jackson-Hammond said. “But guess what? Central State University eats challenges for breakfast. In the coming months, you will learn many things about this great institution. … Today marks the recognition of ‘Go Red Day’. On this day, we pay attention to our health and our heart. How fitting it is that you are being introduced today because you are being charged with taking care of our heart. We are all in great care because the good doctor is here.”
In June, Thomas resigned from his position as president of Western Illinois University after eight years at the school. According to a CSU release, at WIU, Thomas managed a budget of nearly $224 million during a period of unprecedented fiscal challenges.
“I’m honored to have been chosen as the next president of Central State University,” Thomas said. “This institution has such a rich tradition and noble legacy. … We have so many future goals to accomplish, and I know we will have the courage and audacity to do it with excellence.”
Thomas layed out nine strategic points that he said will take CSU “from good to great” — while quoting a book by Jim Collins.
The detailed plan included new efforts for the university to be as student-centered as possible, strategies to improve retention and graduation rates, a plan to begin groundwork for a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign, the development of an Honors College, an increase in degree offerings and a goal to build new residents’ halls and renovations to existing buildings.
Jenay Jones, Student Government Association president, who also served on the president’s search committee, said Thomas said all the right things during the selection process.
“He mentioned that he wants to make sure every student on campus has a mentor,” Jones said. “I spoke to each candidate and let them know that students are looking for someone who can care about them and love them on a personal level and business level. I really loved what he presented about the student body.”
In September, Jackson-Hammond announced she would leave her post after eight years as the university’s top leader. Hammond will step down at the end of the school year.
Jackson-Hammond was the first woman to lead the institution. Under her leadership, the university opened a new $33.5 million student center in 2015 and a $24-million residence hall.
At Western Illinois, Thomas made several hundred job cuts during his last years in office. His administration came under fire and faculty members held a vote where 65% voted “no confidence”against the leadership at the school, according to several Illinois media outlets.
During his resignation announcement, Thomas said, “At this pivotal time in our history, I believe the university would best be served by new leadership.”
Thomas has served in various higher education positions in the past 20 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Alabama A & M University, a master’s degree in English education from Virginia State University, and a Ph.D. in English (literature and criticism) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“Thank you for taking the time to join me in such a significant day in my life,” Thomas said.
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