The Franklin College of the next 10 or 20 years is prominent in the mind of President Thomas J. Minar.
A diverse, inclusive student body goes to classes in a state-of-the-art science hall and lives in updated residence halls. Immersive classes led by a world-class faculty prepare students for top careers by providing real-world, practical knowledge.
Partnerships with businesses and industry leaders give students a bridge to top positions after graduation.
The foundation for that success has already been laid, Minar said. Now, with his inauguration as the college’s 16th president, he’s ready to work with the entire Franklin College community to build something incredible on it.
“As a community, we have identified our common sense of direction and our goals. Here is the dream that you’ve helped me dream,” Minar said.
Minar was inaugurated in front of students, faculty, trustees, alumni and other supporters during a ceremony Saturday. The event marked the official installment of Minar as president, allowing him to share the initial vision stemming from the strategic planning process that has been the focus of his time at Franklin College so far.
On a day officially marking the start of a new era at Franklin College, the ceremony was also a chance to peek into the future of the school as well.
“We come together today to celebrate our proud history, address today’s challenges and make commitments as individuals for thinking forward and embracing new dimensions,” said Christine Fields, chair of the college board of trustees.
Becoming a college president has been a dream of his since he was a boy, Minar said. His parents and family were deeply involved in academia and higher education, so it was natural for him to pursue that career himself.
So becoming president at Franklin College is the fulfillment of his greatest wishes, he said.
Minar has been in office since July 1, taking over as Franklin College president after James G. “Jay” Moseley retired. Minar came to the school with a background specializing in institutional fundraising, alumni relations and higher education administration.
Prior to coming to Franklin College, Minar had been the vice president of development and alumni relations for American University in Washington, D.C.
His first nine months at Franklin College have been centered on acclimating to the campus community and introducing himself to the people he’ll be leading.
Whether sitting down to eat with students in the dining hall, cheering on the school’s sports teams on the weekends or engaging in small committees or task forces, Minar has been an extremely visible figure throughout campus, said Erika Brock, student body president at Franklin College.
“When we’re walking through campus or sitting in the dining hall, he always stops and says hello, asks how our classes are going, and tries to get to know you,” Brock said. “He honestly wants to know how you are as a student of this institution.”
From the faculty’s perspective, Minar’s installment as president brings an opportunity to reinforce the quality of education that the college prides itself on, said Richard Erable, English professor and chair of the faculty steering committee.
“Under your leadership, Franklin College has a chance to reintroduce itself to the region, to the nation, as a college whose deep curricular roots to the liberal arts and sciences does not mean it is out of touch with the individual and communal challenges that face students and their families,” he said. “With your voice, Dr. Minar, FC can once again articulate to an often skeptical public the enduring relevance and intangible benefits of the type of education we offer.”
The importance of a liberal arts education, which Franklin College adheres to in teaching students in a wide array of disciplines, was a centerpiece of the entire inauguration weekend.
That theme continued with the speakers who helped introduce and welcome Minar.
The broad critical thinking and knowledge incubated by liberal arts schools is central to what Franklin College is all about, said Charles Middleton, president emeritus of Roosevelt University, Minar’s past boss and mentor.
In Minar, the school has someone who will only serve to strengthen that foundation.
“He not only gets it, but lives it, and therefore is one of its most effective advocates,” Middleton said.
Speaking to the audience at the close of the ceremony, Minar provided ample evidence for that reputation. He stressed the importance of discomfort to the gathered crowd, of going outside the niches that people feel safe in and exploring more of the world.
“That’s what I’m asking you to do — journey to the extremes. Go beyond our own boundaries, get uncomfortable. That’s the only thing that will enable us to embrace new dimensions,” he said.
That mindset will be particularly important as the college implements the strategic plan that more than 100 students, alumni, faculty and other campus leaders have been working on since November.
Touching on five pillars stemming from the strategic plan, Minar outlined his goals for the future. He wants to help the college develop a nationally recognized and innovative curriculum, with immersive learning at its core.
His mission would include preparing the diverse college community to contribute to the global society, and will develop leaders through a culture of service as well as civic and professional engagement.
The college needs to be even more connected, both locally and regionally as well as nationally and internationally. Innovation and sustainability should be hallmarks of everything the school does, he said.
“You’ve made a boy’s dream, now let’s dream together, and let’s achieve our dreams,” Minar said.