On Thursday, October 18, Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honors Society, held its annual meeting in Macomb. English Professor Brenda Porter drove a small contingent to Macomb from the Quad City campus, the first time that group of Quad City students had ever come to the Sigma Tau Delta meeting. University President Dr. Jack Thomas, himself a former English major and Sigma Tau Delta member, was the main speaker at the event. Dr. Thomas recently published a book entitled Within These Gates: Academic Work, Academic Leadership, University Life, and the Presidency, which Amazon describes as “examining the varied interactions between college and university presidents”and various “stakeholders,”including parents, students, governmental bodies, etc.
President Thomas said that when he went to college, his ultimate goal was to become a high school English teacher. He said that he later was encouraged by a particular faculty member at Alabama A&M, where he got his undergraduate English degree, to go on to PhD study. He went on to ultimately get his PhD from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
He talked about the specific pleasures of an English studies education and expressed an interest in going back and teaching English someday, at which point several English professors offered to team teach a class with him. Reading novels, for Dr. Thomas, is a vacation, but he also talked about the way in which reading can lead to empathy (a theme that Dr. Dan Malachuk is exploring in his current graduate class on the Quad Cities campus as well).
Dr. Thomas also mentioned that the students are really the high point of his job as President of the university. He loves it when he has the chance to have lunch with a group of students and added that commencement is always a high point of the year for him. One of the best things about working at a University is the collaboration with other thinkers, which includes students as well as faculty and administrators.
Dr. Thomas also expressed one of personal philosophies that he lives by, “do all that you can do while you can,” and quoted the George Bernard Shaw poem, A Splendid Torch, in which Shaw writes “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”