Jack Thomas, president of Western Illinois University, announced that he will resign on June 30. The resignation came on the heels of letter to the board of trustees from the university’s Alumni Council calling for President Thomas to be fired. The Western Illinois University Foundation also had called for Dr. Thomas to resign. A letter from the foundation to the board of trustees stated that “the current president has been given every opportunity to develop a plan of action that will reverse the downward trend that has accelerated during his tenure and has clearly failed.”
Signs saying “Fire Jack” appeared in storefront windows near campus. Some of the president supporters alleged that racism was behind the campaign to oust the university’s first African American president.
Enrollments at the main campus of the university have dropped from nearly 10,000 students in 2009 to about 5,600 this spring. African Americans make up 22 percent of the undergraduate student body.
In a statement, President Thomas said in part: “At this pivotal time in our history, I believe the university would best be served by new leadership. 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.”
Dr. Jack Thomas was named the eleventh president of Western Illinois University in 2011. Previously, Dr. Thomas served as the university’s provost and academic vice president. Prior to his tenure at Western Illinois, Dr. Thomas served as senior vice provost for academic affairs and interim dean at Middle Tennessee State University.
Dr. Thomas 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.