Dr. Jack Thomas, President Central State University Friday, February 7, 2020
Good morning. I’m honored to have been chosen as the 9th President of Central State University. I especially want to thank Chairman Mark Hatcher, other members of the Board of Trustees and the search committee. This has been a long yet rewarding process, and I thank you for selecting me as your next President.
When I decided to leave my last position, I thought long and hard about where I could have the most impact in the next stage of my career. My professional life has taken me to a number of fine institutions – each with its own unique place in our educational system. As I learned about Central State University, I felt that this was a very special institution and one where I could contribute the most to its future success.
I want to thank President Cynthia Hammond for her leadership here at Central State University. Her transformational work has positioned the University as a competitive and progressive university. President Hammond has without a doubt left a lasting impression on the CSU community that will never be forgotten. I would like to thank Governor Mike DeWine for his wonderful phone call welcoming me to the great State of Ohio and to Central State University.
I embrace the mission, the legacy and the rich traditions of this University. I am a product of two 1890 Land Grant Universities, and I have held positions at two 1890 Land Grant Universities. My connection and experience with such institutions have uniquely positioned me to truly understand and appreciate the work that lies ahead. I am impressed by the rich legacy of Central State. In 1958, then President Charles H. Wesley of CSU hosted Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as the commencement speaker, where he encouraged students to embrace the new era ahead. Dr. King’s mentor and one of my heroes Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, a Baptist minister and former President of Morehouse College once said, “Whatever you do, strive to do it so well that no man living and no man dead and no man yet to be born could do it any better.”
Like many of the current students, I too was a first-generation college student. I grew up on a farm in Calhoun, a small community in Lowndes County, Alabama. My parents were not able to get a formal education because they had to work in the fields and lived through the tumultuous battles of civil rights. I can remember my mother saying “Son, I want you to finish high school and go to college. Someone has to do something a little different from what your father and I have done.” Through my mother’s encouragement, I began to excel in my studies. My father taught me the importance of a strong work ethic. My mother has since passed away, but my father still lives on the family farm. I salute my parents today.
I want to take this opportunity to thank my wife, Dr. Linda Thomas, for always standing with me and believing in me and for always serving as my number one supporter. I also want to thank our two sons, Patrick and Darius, who could not be with us today.
As a university, we must be winners in all that we do. We must win in the region. We must win in the state. We must win nationally and internationally. We must think big, dream big and achieve our goals as a university. If our dreams don’t scare us, then they are not big enough! According to the secret of successful mountain climbing, if you aim at nothing, you will hit nothing. If your goals are vague, your achievements will be vague also. However, if your goals are specific, then you will harvest specific results. Therefore, it is imperative that you aim high and your goals are very specific. We certainly will aim high. We will be specific, and we will achieve our goals.
During my tenure here as President of Central State University, we will set goals and create strategies to achieve them by working with all constituencies, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, legislators, stakeholders, friends of the University, and many others. As Jim Collins says in his book “From Good To Great,” this is a very good university. We will do what is necessary to make Central State University a great university. As Ohio's only 1890 Land Grant institution, Central State University is becoming an institution of distinction locally, nationally and around the world. We will begin and complete a new strategic plan by building upon the historic foundation that has already been laid for our University. Shared governance is the cornerstone of a healthy and successful institution. I believe in collaborative efforts designed to engage all stakeholders by keeping them informed and involved. I often say that everybody deserves to be treated with civility and mutual respect.
1. We will enhance and maintain compliance for our 1890 Land Grant mission through academic programing, cooperative extension, grants, research and federal and state funding.
2. We will grow our enrollment by meeting prospective students where they are, exploiting the most modern and culturally effective forms of communication. We will continue by organizing and reinforcing existing administrative processes and exhausting every effort to provide excellent service to our various stakeholders. We will focus on being a student-centered university where every decision is made with the students’ best interest at heart. With the national decrease in enrollment and subsequent negative impact on student financial aid, we must embrace a new approach to recruiting with a focus on diversity. We will find creative and engaging ways to showcase the talents, unique skills and academic excellence of our academy.
3. With a combination of useful and productive technologies, we will greatly improve our retention and graduation rates by taking the time to implement innovative techniques like a robust early alert system to truly understand where our students are falling short before it's too late.
4. We will develop an aggressive marketing and rebranding campaign that comprehensively defines our audience and establishes dominance and brand authority in our market.
5. We will begin the groundwork for a multimillion-dollar comprehensive fundraising campaign and strengthen our donor relations by opening meaningful and prosperous dialogue around the impact of their generosity. The comprehensive fundraising campaign will support scholarships, faculty development, academic programs instructional equipment and facilities.
6. We will develop a bona fide Honors College that will be placed at the forefront of the University. We will recruit some of the best and brightest students that will help to enhance the overall academic profile of the University, focusing recruitment efforts on students with high ACT/SAT and grade point averages.
7. We will transform our academy through increasing degree offerings, carving a niche in academic programs and identifying signature academic offerings. We will establish flexible course offerings including, online, weekend and hybrid courses. Ultimately, it is our goal to propose a school of graduate studies with prospectus for masters and doctoral degrees.
8. Our efforts to enhance retention will include strengthening the culture of our incoming and current students by building a new learning and living environment that includes new residents’ halls and renovations to existing ones.
9. We will review the University’s campus master plan to determine those facilities that we should forge ahead in seeking funding and establishing a timeline for construction, particularly those that are centered around our 1890 Land Grant mission with a focus on agriculture.
Thank you for taking the time to join me in such a significant day in my life as the Board announces that I will serve as the next president of Central State University. I'm excited about this opportunity, and I look forward to meeting and working with you throughout my tenure here. Thank you.