Dr. Jack Thomas was named the 11th president of Western Illinois University on January 18, 2011, and began his presidential tenure July 1, 2011. Dr. Thomas leads an institution that serves more than 10,000 students through its traditional, residential four-year campus in Macomb, Illinois, and its metropolitan campus in the Quad Cities/Moline, Illinois. Western offers 61 undergraduate degree programs and 38 graduate degree programs.
Under his leadership, Western Illinois University continues to be ranked as a “Best Midwestern College” and as a “Best Regional University” by The Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report, respectively. Western also continues to be recognized as a “Military Friendly School” by GI Jobs Magazine and as a “Best for Vets College” by Military Times EDGE magazine. During Dr. Thomas’ tenure, numerous programs and initiatives have been established and improved, including increased partnerships with international universities and embassies, additional scholarship funding, the Western Commitment Scholarship and the Centennial Honors College Scholarship programs, a mentoring program designed to improve retention, and an enhanced honors college. Additionally, numerous academic programs have been established, highly selective and extraordinary signature academic programs have been identified and Western’s First Year Experience has undergone an extensive revision. Western Illinois University continues to improve its facilities under Dr. Thomas’ guidance, including the renovation of the Three-Dimensional Art Facility, Corbin/Olson and Thompson residence halls, and science labs. Other projects on the Macomb Campus include the remodeling of the University Union, the installation of new turf on Hanson Field, and enhancing the landscaping and lighting throughout the campus, which includes a new grand entrance to the campus. Through Western’s beautification project, the Macomb campus was designated a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Foundation. Under Dr. Thomas’ leadership, Phase I and Phase II of the Quad Cities Riverfront Campus have opened.
Prior to his appointment as president, Dr. Thomas served as the University’s provost and academic vice president from January 2008 through June 2011. Before joining the Western Illinois University administration, he served as senior vice provost for academic affairs and interim dean at Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Thomas has also served in various capacities at other universities, including interim president, executive vice president, associate vice president for academic and student affairs, executive assistant to the president, department chair, coordinator of freshman English and assistant track coach. He is a graduate of the Harvard Leadership Program, and has been an American Council on Education Fellow and a Kellogg-NAFEO Fellow. Dr. Thomas is also a member of the following Boards: the Board of Trustees at Stillman College, the Board of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education, and the Illinois Campus Compact. He has also served on the Executive Board for the American Council on Education Council of Fellows.
Dr. Thomas is the author of numerous scholarly publications, is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, is a noted lecturer, and is an invited keynote speaker for regional and national meetings and events. His research agenda focuses primarily on Black males in literature, and he is the former editor and founder of “Image: The Scholars Release Journal, Men and Women of Color.” As a strong proponent of mentoring young faculty from diverse backgrounds, Dr. Thomas has established under-represented dissertation and post-doctoral fellowships, visiting professorships, young scholar initiatives, and other programs that support their professional development. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Sigma Pi Phi, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Tau Delta and many other organizations. In the Macomb community, Dr. Thomas is a member of the Macomb Noon Rotary, and he is affiliated with the McDonough District Hospital’s Golden Apple Society, the Performing Arts Society, Macomb Area Economic Development Corporation (MAEDCO), the Community and University Partnership Program (CUPP), and the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development Corporation.
A native of Lowndes County, Alabama, Dr. Thomas earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, his master’s degree from Virginia State University and his bachelor’s degree from Alabama A & M University. Dr. Thomas and his wife, Dr. Linda Thomas, have two sons, Patrick and Darius.