Nine months have passed since Thomas J. Minar took office as president of Franklin College.

When he accepted the position, Minar talked about strengthening the school’s science programs, bringing in a more diverse student body and positioning the college into partnerships with central Indiana’s growing business community.

None of that could happen until college leaders planned out the path the college would take during the coming decades.

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Minar will be inaugurated as the 16th president in Franklin College history Saturday. Since replacing the retiring James G. “Jay” Moseley on July 1, he has been uniting students, faculty, staff and alumni in strategic planning to define the future of the college.

The hours of discussion, brainstorming and honing are coming to a close, with Minar’s inauguration the beginning of the end of the process. The concrete goals of the campus are expected to be fully revealed in the next month.

At the start of an exciting new journey for himself as president and the college as a whole, Minar discussed his time at Franklin College thus far.

What has your time in the president’s office been like so far?

It’s been very busy. It’s a remarkable experience to get to know a new campus, a new community and a new region. But really, on campus, to be digging into what goes on here — what the people are like, what we do. Just an enormous learning process.

People often refer to the first year or two of a presidency as drinking from a fire hose. I don’t really like the imagery, but there’s truth to the fact that there’s a lot to be learned. And it’s busy work anyway, so it’s very demanding, but exciting. I have fun every day.

When you were announced as president last year, one of your main goals heading in was getting the college into a strategic planning process. How have you felt you’ve progressed in that initial goal?

We have what I think is the most open-architecture strategic planning process in higher education in the country right now, with more than 350 people participating from our community. It’s also a very much accelerated process because we want to have that process in place by May.

So far, we’re on track. There are a number of priorities that are shaping the future of the college that will emerge over Inauguration Weekend that are really exciting, and will demonstrate that this process has allowed the community to come together to think about common vision for the college and what it should look like in 10 or 20 years.

What can you reveal about what you hope Franklin College looks like in the future?

The good news for your readers is it will look like a residential liberal arts college in Franklin, Indiana. But it’s even better than that. We’re seeking answers to some important questions to what our student body should look like, how do we differentiate ourselves from other liberal arts colleges, how do we become more diverse, both in our employee base and our population.

At the same time, how do we relate to the community? We’re interested in how we relate to people and businesses in Franklin and Johnson County as well as around the Indianapolis metropolitan area and nationally and internationally, as well.

We recognize that Franklin is a global business community; you can’t look at the businesses that are here and not say this city is a global business community. And Indianapolis has a vibrant and growth-oriented economy that also is an important part of our future. We’re very excited to be here in Franklin and part of the vibrant Indianapolis metropolitan community.

What is this process all about?

It’s about hope for the future. It’s about galvanizing a community around our possibilities and a really strong direction for this college. Then it’s about shouting from the mountaintops about the relevance and excellence of Franklin College and liberal arts education.How have you tried to connect and integrate yourself into the campus community since your arrival?

There are formal mechanisms and informal mechanisms. Meetings with students and student groups, interaction I have with students on college task-forces and commissions. Participation at countless athletic events and art events and other activities around campus.

Then the informal, just being present. I eat in our college dining room, so I see students there or wandering through our student center. Walking across campus. And again, athletic events have a lot to do with this because I love talking to students who are fellow spectators. There are a lot of ways. Every moment is an opportunity to interact with a student.

What has been the biggest surprise since you took office as president?

My biggest surprises have to do with Indiana more so than with the college. I’m concerned about the public school situation in Indiana. I’m concerned that our schools aren’t preparing students particularly well for college.

While that’s a generalization, the numbers bear it out, and the political environment bears it out. I’m not sure the legislature and the executive branch are working collaboratively and in a way that will identify the right compromises that need to be made to improve the schools here, and to do it quickly.

As a college president, how can you approach that problem?

The best way we address it is prepare students to be teachers and go out and do great things in classrooms. But the state has even made that hard with changes, some of them unreasonable, to the licensing procedures in Indiana.

The bottom-line then is our students who are preparing to be teachers are turned off by what they’re seeing and hearing in classrooms in the practical education experiences. They come back from those experiences not energized to be teachers but rethinking their career choices. It’s hard to do that work, training teachers, even though we’re very committed to it.

On the other side, how have you been pleasantly surprised?

I’m surprised just how friendly our students are, how glad they seem to see me. There’s a very strong sense of community on our campus, and that bears itself out every walk across campus. I’m grateful for our students for that.

What are you looking forward to about this inauguration?

This community has so much energy and so much good attitude in it that when we celebrate something, we do a great job of coming out and being together. So I’m looking forward to being together with all of our students, a lot of alumni, representatives from other institutions who are coming to honor Franklin by being here. Finally, having my family and friends here. It’s celebrating a new day and a new beginning for the college.

The Minar File

Who: Thomas J. Minar

Occupation: 16th president of Franklin College

Education: Bachelor’s degree in government from Pomona College; master’s degree in management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management; doctorate in political science from Northwestern University.

Family: Married to Dr. Frank Becker, an academic physician at Northwestern University and director of pulmonary and critical care at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital

Past positions: Roosevelt University, vice president for institutional advancement and special assistant to the president

Chicago Theological Seminary, vice president for development and external affairs; professor of religion and political science

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, associate dean for external affairs and chief development officer for the College of Business Administration

Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, director of development

Northwestern University, assistant dean and director of alumni relations for the Kellogg School of Management

Northwestern University, professor of management and strategy and political science

If you go

Inauguration of Franklin College President Thomas J. Minar

Schedule of public events

All events are free and open to the public. No tickets are required, so reservations are appreciated where noted.

Inauguration Symposium

  • When: 1:30 to 4:45 p.m. today
  • Where: Napolitan Student Center, Branigin Room
  • What: A discussion on liberal arts education. Speakers include Mark Shields, political analyst for PBS “NewsHour” and syndicated columnist; Scott McCorkle, CEO, Marketing Cloud, Salesforce; Debra Humphreys, senior vice president of academic planning and public engagement for the Association of American Colleges and Universities; and Franklin College students, seniors Ian Mullen and Khadijetou (Atama) Abdourahmane
  • Reservations appreciated

Inauguration ceremony

  • When: 11 a.m. Saturday
  • Where: Spurlock Center gymnasium
  • Reservations appreciated

President’s Inaugural Luncheon

  • When: Immediately following the inauguration ceremony
  • Where: Napolitan Student Center, Branigin Room
  • Reservations appreciated

Community worship service

  • When: 11 a.m. Sunday
  • Where: Richardson Chapel
  • What: The Rev. Stephanie Perdew VanSlyke, senior pastor, First Congregational Church of Wilmette, Illinois, will preach a service led by campus minister the Rev. Leah Rumsey


Franklin College Presidents

1. George C. Chandler, 1843–1852

2. Silas Bailey, 1852–1870

3. Herman Lincoln Wayland, 1870–1872

4. William Taylor Stott, 1872–1905

5. Elmer B. Bryan, 1905–1911

6. Elijah A. Hanley, 1911–1917

7. Charles Elmer Goodell, 1917–1927

8. Homer Price Rainey, 1927–1933

9. William Gear Spencer, 1933–1949

10. Harold Wellington Richardson, 1949–1964

11. Wesley Northridge Haines, 1964-1976

12. Edwin Penn, 1976–1983

13. William Bryan Martin, 1983–1997

14. Paul B. Marion, 1997–2002

15. James G. Moseley, 2002–2015

16. Thomas J. Minar, 2015

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.