Jack Thomas was named the 11th president of Western Illinois University (WIU) in 2011. As President, Thomas leads an institution that serves approximately 12,000 students through its traditional, residential four-year campus in Macomb, Illinois, and its metropolitan campus in the Quad Cities/Moline, Illinois. WIU offers 66 undergraduate degree programs and 37 graduate degree programs, has over 700 faculty members, and has an annual budget of over $220 million. 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 Illinois University also continues to be named a “Military Friendly School” by GI Jobs Magazine. During 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 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 Thomas’ leadership, Phases I and II of the Quad Cities Riverfront Campus have opened.
Previously, Thomas served as WIU’s provost and academic vice president. While serving at the academic helm, the University established new degree programs in nursing, engineering, museum studies, anthropology, and religious studies. As a strong proponent of mentoring young faculty from diverse backgrounds, Thomas has established under-represented dissertation and post-doctorate fellowships, visiting professorships, young scholar initiatives, and other programs that support their professional development. Thomas earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Alabama A & M University, a Master of English Education from Virginia State University, and a Ph.D. in English (Literature and Criticism) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his tenure at WIU, Thomas served as senior vice provost for Academic Affairs and interim dean at Middle Tennessee State University. 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, chair of the department of english and modern languages, coordinator of freshman english, and assistant track coach.
Thomas’ love for education and the development of excellence among his students has been evident throughout his career. He is a noted scholar and lecturer appearing as a keynote speaker presenting his research and inspirational messages locally, nationally, and internationally. Thomas has numerous publications and professional presentations. His most recent publication is a book titled, “Within These Gates: Academic Work, Academic Leadership, University Life, and the Presidency.” His research focuses on Black males in literature. He served as the editor and founder of Image: The Scholars Release Journal, Men and Women of Color which showcases writers, poets, and artists. Thomas’ fathomless energy spreads beyond the confines of the academy. He gives many hours to the community, both educationally and personally, serving on numerous boards and committees, and is very active in church. He also has membership in Sigma Pi Phi, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Tau Delta, and many other organizations.
In addition, Thomas is a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education and serves on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) Board of Directors. He is a member of the NCAA Presidential Forum and chairs the NCAA Accelerating Academic Success Program Board. Thomas has served as an American Council on Education Fellow, is a graduate of the Harvard Leadership Program and the Leadership Middle Tennessee Program, a Kellogg-NAFEO Fellow, and participated in the Salzburg Seminar in Salzburg, Austria. Thomas is married to the former Linda Goldsmith of Fort Deposit, Alabama, and they have two sons, Patrick and Darius.