University News

WIU President Jack Thomas: Presidential Announcement

June 14, 2019

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Dear University Community,

I have informed the Board of Trustees that June 30, 2019 will be my last day as President of Western Illinois University. At this pivotal time in our history, I believe the University would best be served by new leadership.

It has been a privilege serving as President, Provost, and as a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education during this historic period. Despite the difficulties our state has faced with regards to the budget and loss of population, our University remains resilient. We are a world-class University, and during my final days as President, I will work to ensure everything is in place for the new leadership to begin the next chapter in Western's history.

During my tenure, the University has been challenged in unprecedented ways, and we have weathered recent storms. I am pleased that we made the difficult decisions and implemented the necessary changes to ensure the University's viability.

Without a doubt, I have had to make some difficult decisions – including ones that have sometimes been very unpopular, but nevertheless were always made with the best interests of the overall University's future at heart. These decisions were made necessary due to a decade of decreased state appropriations (from $56.2 million in FY 2011 down to $47.2 million in FY19), the two-year, unprecedented statewide budget impasse, and enrollment decline due to the large outmigration of high school students from the state of Illinois, demographic shifts in the state, population decline in the region that we serve, and challenges with economic development. Through it all, we continue to transform students' lives, participate in outstanding research, achieve a tremendous level of student, faculty and staff success, and positively impact the communities in which we live, serve and learn.

Working together, we have established 17 new degree programs, including the University's first Ph.D. program, diversified our students, faculty and staff, enhanced our online and non-traditional course offerings, built Phases I and II of the Quad Cities Campus, implemented Western Commitment Scholarships, greatly increased aid for all students at the University, beautified our campuses, increased the overall academic profile of our students, increased the University's rankings, significantly grown the Centennial Honors College, focused on serving military members, and so much more.

I am very pleased that our advocacy efforts are bearing fruit. We are slated to receive increased state operational funding (5% over FY19), as well as capital funding for the new Science Building ($94.5 million), re-appropriations for the Center for Performing Arts ($89.0 million) and Quad Cities campus ($9.0 million), funds for capital improvements ($29.0 million), and just announced, funds for Macomb campus electrical distribution ($3.3 million).

Over the past eleven years, we have received widespread recognition for the excellent, quality educational experience we provide. We increased Western's national rankings in US News and World Report and the Princeton Review as a Best Midwestern University, GI Jobs Magazine as a Military Friendly Institution, Military Times Edge Magazine as a Best for Vets University, and the Washington Monthly College Guide as a "Best Bang for the Buck" Midwestern school. We are also recognized as one of the top master's degree granting institutions in the nation, and as one of America's best four-year colleges for adult learners.

Our reputation has also been enhanced as we produced a Rhodes Scholar finalist, a Truman Scholar finalist, a Goldwater Scholar winner, and multiple Fulbright Scholarship recipients.

We have achieved many other honors as well. For its commitment to a diverse campus, Western Illinois University was recognized by Minority Access, Inc. with a national award. Additionally, the US Department of Education showcased the University in its report, "Fulfilling the Promise, Serving the Need," due to Western outperforming our peer institutions in enrolling and graduating Pell Grant recipients.

Our programs have received national recognition. The Master of Accountancy program boasted the state's highest exam pass rate of any Illinois public university. All of the Western Illinois University School of Nursing students who took the required National Council Licensure Exam in 2017 passed. Further, the Department of Physics ranked first in the nation by the American Physical Society's list of the average number of master's degrees awarded per year between 2015-2017, and our School of Engineering has been recognized for one hundred percent placement of its students. These are just a few of the accomplishments we have achieved together.

As I reflect, I wish to thank the board members, faculty, staff and students for all of their support throughout the years. It has been an honor advocating tirelessly for Western Illinois University through my interactions with national and world leaders, governors, legislators, and leaders of multiple constituencies. However, first and foremost, I am grateful for the time I have had as President and Provost in interacting with the great students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members who make up the Western Illinois University family. It is our people who make this University great, and it has been a privilege serving you.

Jack Thomas, Ph.D.

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