Bob Thomas becomes chairman of the university senate


Nicholas Morea

Bob Thomas leads his first meeting as chairman of the university senate on April 14, 2016. He previously served as vice chairman, but took over the leadership role after Jon Altschul, previous chairman, died in February.

Nicholas Morea

Bob Thomas, director for the Center for Environmental Communication, has become the new university senate chairman.

Thomas stepped into this role after Jon Altschul, previous chairman of the senate, died in February. The April 14 senate meeting was Thomas’ first meeting as chairman.

“It’s big shoes to fill, he was a great guy and worked diligently. It’s one of the biggest jobs on campus, you’re administering a process that results in policy decisions that come from the faculty that go to administration,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he will not run for the position for next year.

“One of the things I love about the faculty senate is the ability to hear what the faculty has on their minds. I like to see us make decisions and move forward,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the role of the chairman is one of many that help make the senate effective.

“It’s not a one-person show, there’s a lot of people sitting in that group that have been president in that group and they know what to expect and so it’s a very astute group of faculty members who care about the future of the university,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he feels prepared for this position after watching Altschul’s leadership.

“Professor Altschul was really good and we loved his leadership and when I came to the position certain things were laid out, and it is about dotting i’s and crossing t’s and setting the stage for the next leadership group to take the university to the next stage,” Thomas said.

Edward Vacek, the Rev. Stephen J. Duffy Chairman of Catholic Studies, said he welcomes Thomas in his position.

“I am happy to say that I think he will be a great head of the senate. He has a wonderful style, and he has shown himself to have both humility and strength as he took over the job,” Vacek said.

Barbara C. Ewell, Dorothy H. Brown Distinguished Professor of English, said she thinks Thomas will excel in his new position.

“Dr. Bob has a sense of the whole of the university, he has a sense of the mission and understands what faculty do and he is really committed to that. He is politically astute, which is helpful,” Ewell said.

Ewell said there may be problems Thomas will face during his time as chairman, just as previous leaders have had to face.

“Bob will have challenges trying to keep the faculty, the board and administration talking to each other. That’s what a good leader does,” Ewell said.