Thomas W. Cole, the founding president of Clark Atlanta University and former president of West Virginia State University, has died. He was 81 years old.
A native of Vernon, Texas, Dr. Cole was a summa cum laude graduate of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where his father served as president from 1958 to 1971. Dr. Cole went on to earn a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago.
Dr. Cole began his professional career in 1966 as an assistant professor at Atlanta University, where he taught chemistry. From 1970 through 1979, he served as the chemistry department chair. From 1969 through 1979, Dr. Cole served as the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Chemistry, and in 1979 he was named provost and vice president for academic affairs.
In 1982, Dr. Cole was appointed president of historically Black West Virginia State University. He later was appointed chancellor of the West Virginia Board of Regents.
In 1987, Dr. Cole was named president of both Atlanta University and Clark College, to simultaneously manage both institutions and create a consolidation plan. President Cole was appointed the founding president of Clark Atlanta University in 1988. He served in that role until 2002.
George T. French, the current president of Clark Atlanta University said that “President Cole profoundly loved Clark Atlanta University. His deep appreciation for the entire CAU family was felt by all, including faculty, staff, and most importantly, the students. He was a students’ president. He knew students by name, and every decision he made was led with the best interest of the students and the university in mind. President Cole was a giant of a man, who will be cherished and forever distinguished.”