Thomas accepts job at Fort Lewis
LEWISTON, Idaho – Dene K. Thomas has agreed to become the ninth president in the history of Fort Lewis College, officials at the Durango, Colorado institution announced on Friday.
Thomas, who will become the first woman president at Fort Lewis in its 99-year history, agreed to become the new president during a conference call with the Fort Lewis Board of Directors on Friday afternoon.
Thomas, who has been president at Lewis-Clark State College for the past nine years, will begin her new duties on July 1.
“This is a bittersweet transition for me, because Lewis-Clark State has been such a rewarding experience,” Thomas said. “I have been deeply committed to higher education at Lewis-Clark State College for the past nine years, and it will be wrenching to leave. I pledge that same commitment at Fort Lewis College.”
Thomas said the people are what she will miss most about leaving LCSC.
“I can’t thank the faculty and staff enough for their support through the years,” Thomas said. “This is truly like leaving your family. I know I leave a part of me behind, but am thankful I get to take a part of LCSC with me.”
Thomas was one of three finalists for the position, joining Elisabeth Grobsmith, Provost and Financial Vice President for Academic Affairs at Northern Arizona University, and Kent Tingey, Vice President for Advancement at Idaho State University. All three interviewed at the campus in late February and early March.
While at LCSC, Thomas has been instrumental in helping the substantial enrollment growth. The college has set sixth straight all-time enrollment records during the spring and fall and had more than 4,000 students enrolled in the fall for the first time with 4,200 students.
Thomas said she didn’t openly seek the job in Colorado, but was approached by the headhunter in the search. She said Fort Lewis is similar to LCSC in enrollment size and is noted for its work with Native Americans.
Prior to LCSC, Thomas was Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Idaho. She also was the Associate Dean for the College of Letters and Science, and the Director of Writing in the English Department at UI.
Thomas earned her baccalaureate degree in Literature, with a Secondary Education Certificate in English, from Southwest State University, Minnesota. She received her Ph.D. in English, specializing in rhetoric and composition, at the University of Minnesota.
Thomas holds a wide variety of leadership positions both nationally and on the local level. She is a commissioner for the American Council on Education Commission on Effective Leadership, a commissioner for the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, serves on the board of directors for Higher Education Resource Services and for the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, and is a member of the executive board for the American Council on Education Network – Office of Women in Higher Education. Locally, she serves on the board of directors for Valley Vision; is a member of the Idaho Workforce Development Council, the Idaho Higher Education Council of Presidents, the Frontier Conference; and serves on the Legislative Committee for the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, Thomas received the Council for Advancement and Support of Education District VIII’s Distinguished Leadership Award for 2007.
Thomas will continue to work at LCSC through the spring semester and would like to still be at the college when the President’s Tea is held on June 25.