Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas to leave position

MACOMB, Ill. (KWQC) - The president of Western Illinois University has announced he will be leaving his position.

Western Illinois University's President Jack Thomas has announced he will be stepping down as president.

In a closed session Thursday evening, WIU President Dr. Jack Thomas informed the Board of Trustees that he is stepping down from his role.

Thomas announced in an open board meeting Friday that he will serve his last day on June 30, 2019.

He said he believes the university will be "best served by new leadership."

Thomas has requested to be moved to administrative leave for one year at current salary, and a second year on sabbatical; approved by the Board of Trustees.

He shared a statement on his Facebook page reflecting on his time as President and Provost at the university.

Greg Aguilar, Chair of the Board of Trustees at WIU says of Thomas' decision, "We were, of course, surprised and at the same time grateful for President Thomas to be so brave and to be a strong leader for the better of Western Illinois."

Some members of the community expressed their satisfaction with the decision of Thomas to resign.

Jim Keeney, a retired faculty member of WIU says, "It's something that has needed to happen. As a retired member of the community, it has adversely affected this community."

Others felt differently about the decision.

During an opportunity to address the board, one woman said, "I came from North Carolina just to say I want Macomb to grow. I drove downtown. It is not the fault of Jack Thomas or the board of trustees. It is the fault of people realizing we are not together. If I experienced discrimination at 13 years old, and it's still the same here, that says something."

Still, many were left wondering what will be the next steps for the university.

Officials with the board addressed that question, and Aguilar says, "There's a few things that's next for the university. First and foremost we have to bring the university community together... both the city, the county as well as the university come together to discuss how are we going to increase enrollment, how are we going to retain our students."

Some of the biggest discussion topics from people who took the podium were low enrollment, laid-off faculty, including tenured faculty, and a feeling of division within the Macomb and WIU community.

Tensions were high as one person after another addressed the board.

Holly Stovall, a professor who was laid-off by the university was finishing her thoughts when her time ran out; she replied, "You've destroyed my career. I'm gonna finish. I don't have much left."

Another woman who spoke in the meeting says, "We need leadership. Not excuses. Not hiding numbers."

Dr. Orville Jones, whose daughter is a member of the WIU community says, "I was appalled to read in the Chronicle about the racial contention that has been taking place in Macomb."

Another speaker, Jennifer Hamlin asked the board to stand with workers, "Please stand with us to prevent and end an unfair work environment."

As the Board of Trustees has a lot to consider, President Thomas is thankful as he finishes his final days in office, "I'm very pleased right now on where we are and we feel we're turning the corner. We want to make sure the institution is now poised for someone else to come in and move it to the next level."