UMR head to retire after school year

Thomas helped boost the graduation rate.
Thursday, September 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gary Thomas, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Rolla, announced Wednesday he will retire after this school year. Thomas’ announcement follows MU chancellor Richard Wallace’s retirement two days ago.

“I thought it would take me about five years to make an impact, and I’m now in my fifth year,” Thomas said.

Thomas, 67, said his position has been difficult on his wife and family. They remained on the East Coast while he worked in Rolla.

He came to the University of Missouri from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, where he served as provost and professor of electrical and computer engineering.

When Thomas came to UMR , the student population had been in steady decline since 1993, UMR spokesman Andrew Careaga said.

Thomas said his immediate priority was “enrollment, enrollment, enrollment” — getting new freshmen, new transfer students and new graduate students.

Since Thomas took the helm, UMR increased its graduation rate by about 15 percent in the past four years.

“We’re currently on track to have a 25 percent graduation rate increase,” Thomas said.

UMR’s other accomplishments during Thomas’ tenure include doubling externally funded research expenditures, securing the two largest private gifts in the university’s history and increasing the number of African Americans to earn engineering degrees.

“The University of Missouri-Rolla is a stronger institution as a result of Gary’s contributions in such important areas as research expenditures, federal funding, student enrollment, residential life and private gifts,” UM system President Elson Floyd said Wednesday in a news release.

Thomas, whose retirement will become effective in September 2005, plans to spend the final year of his chancellorship meeting with donors, as UMR prepares for a major fund-raising campaign.

“We’ve identified about 300 people capable of donating a large gift, and ideally we’d like to have 75 individuals that would give 75 percent of the total amount we’re trying to raise,” Thomas said.

Floyd said he would consult with students, faculty and alumni of UMR before appointing a search committee in the coming weeks to begin a nationwide search for Thomas’ successor.

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