In his previous stops in the academic world, Thomas J. Minar was in charge of recruiting a diverse student body and collaborating with faculty members on university initiatives.
A program at American University to connect alumni with prospective undergraduate students was his idea. As a faculty member at Northwestern University, he taught high-level students the concepts of both management and political science.
Minar’s wide range of experience in higher education made him stand out in the search for a new president. Now, trustees and faculty at Franklin College hope he’s able to combine his many skills to push the school toward greater success.
“The knowledge base he brings is impressive,” said Richard Erable, an English professor at Franklin College. “He seems to have a great deal of insight into all things higher education.”
The search for the college’s new president was conducted over four months by a 12-member committee of alumni, staff administrators, trustees and faculty members.
Working with search firm Witt/Kieffer, the committee sought a candidate with experience in higher education, skill in building partnerships with businesses, and the ability to bring in donations. The group also wanted someone who shared a dedication to the liberal arts education, a desire to connect the college and community and a willingness to create programs ensuring students get real-world experience before graduation.
Minar stood out among the candidates because of a combined experience in academia and alumni relations, as well as with business acumen, said Christi Fields, chairwoman of the Franklin College board of trustees.
He has held administrative positions at American University, Roosevelt University in Chicago, the Chicago Theological Seminary and the University of Illinois College of Commerce and Business Administration.
Much of his focus has been strategically planning for the future of the schools while maintaining the alumni base and keeping them engaged in the upcoming projects.
His personal values — in terms of integrity and respect for others — were impeccable, Fields said.
“It was a unique combination and breadth of experience that you don’t often find in college presidents,” she said.
The college has emphasized engaged learning and service learning in recent years, and Minar has been committed to that, Fields said.
With its location so close to Indianapolis, the college needs to take advantage of connecting students with professionals and organizations to prepare them for careers. Minar shares a passion and vision for that goal as well, Fields said.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity of the future and energy it brings. This transition has energized all of us,” she said.
Erable was one of two faculty members on the presidential search committee. He praised the work the now-retired President James “Jay” Moseley had done in his years at Franklin College. But with a new president, the college can look forward to an infusion of intellectual vigor, Erable said.
“With a new president, sometimes you have the chance to see opportunities that had become clouded by time when you have not been away from the institution,” he said. “You get fresh eyes.”
Because students have just arrived for the school year, it’s hard to determine the atmosphere that Minar brings with him to Franklin College. But Erable said that, among staff and the students who have met the new president, people are excited.
“There is an energy on campus,” Erable said. “He’s very charismatic — he commands the room. He doesn’t shrink or fade into the background, and I think that’s been noticed on campus.”