Press Release - USM Board of Regents Names New UMES President

May 23, 2002

USM Board of Regents Names New President of University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Thelma B. Thompson, vice president for academic affairs at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, VA, and a long-time liberal arts dean at the same institution, has been named the 12th president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), the University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents announced today. Thompson will succeed Dolores R. Spikes, who retired last September. Since Spikes's departure, Jack Thomas, executive vice president of UMES, has served as interim president. Thompson will begin her new position on July 1.

Nathan A. Chapman Jr., chairman of the Board of Regents, said, "Thelma Thompson is the ideal candidate to lead this historic institution. The depth and breadth of her experience in higher education, combined with her energy and enthusiasm, will be an inspiration to the campus. This is an exciting time in the life of UMES, which has a growing reputation for excellence and a wealth of possibilities before it. The university is unique on the Eastern Shore and in many ways in all of public higher learning, and it deserves a unique person like Dr. Thompson as its president."

(See below for fact sheet on UMES.)

Thompson has served for four years as vice president of academic affairs at Norfolk State, where she is responsible for 39 undergraduate and 14 graduate programs serving about 7,000 students as well as more than 400 full-time teachers. She works with governing boards, alumni groups, community leaders, and state and national education agencies, and manages a nearly $40 million budget. In the absence of Norfolk's president, she is responsible for the daily operations of the university. She helped raise $11 million to establish the university's Wilder Center for the Performing Arts.

From 1990-98, Thompson was dean of Norfolk's School of Arts & Letters. In that capacity, she managed five academic departments and handled the daily operations of the school.

Of her appointment at UMES, Thompson said, "It is a great honor for me to be chosen to lead this historic institution. It is my goal to respect its wonderful past, while at the same time I want to maximize its potential in what I call a broadband style - meaning it's about students, faculty, staff, alumni, everyone in UMES's extended community. With the students at the center of the enterprise, I want to work with all constituencies to make UMES a respected center of learning. We are entrusted with the minds of young students, and to me that makes education much more than a business. It dictates the future of our nation, and our graduates tell us who we are as a society."

Interim USM Chancellor Joseph Vivona called Thompson "precisely the right person to take the reins at UMES."

"She is joining a beautiful campus that is never content to sit idle," Vivona said. "Her record of achievement and can-do attitude will be a good match, and I suspect that you'll see the campus leadership constantly challenging itself to attain the next level. It's going to be a good time to be at UMES."

Prior to Thompson's career at Norfolk State, she served two years as associate dean and professor of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), and eight years before that as assistant chair in its English department. Her service in various capacities at UDC extends back to 1979, when she was appointed director of freshman English.

She has also taught English and literature at Howard University, the City University of New York, and, most notably, at the USM's Bowie State University in its reading program from 1974 to '76.

Thompson holds a doctorate in English literature, which she earned from Howard University in 1978. She received her master's in English from Howard six years prior to that, and her bachelor's in English from Howard two years prior to that. She graduated cum laude. Thompson also holds a teacher's diploma from Bethlehem Teachers College in Jamaica and an education certificate from London University.

Thompson is a member of the Modern Language Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, Phi Beta Kappa, and the African-American Writers' Guild, among her more than a dozen professional associations. She is the former national president of the College Language Association and a co-founder of the Caribbean Studies Association. She also has served as co-chair of a Southern Association of Schools and Colleges leadership task force for redesigning the accreditation guidelines for a number of southern institutions.

Thompson is the author of dozens of essays, journal articles, and editorials, most addressing issues in education. Her book The Seventeenth Century English Hymn: A Mode for Sacred and Secular Concerns was published in 1988. She wrote the poem "Centurion," which will appear in Critical Essays on W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk, to be published this year by the University of Missouri Press.

Thompson has two grown children and two grown stepchildren.


Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739

Norfolk State Contact: Karla Johnson
Phone: 757/823-2291

Facts About The University of Maryland Eastern Shore

  • Founded in 1886, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore is home to more than 2,900 undergraduates and more than 300 graduate students, as well as 131 full-time faculty.
  • Located in the town of Princess Anne about 13 miles south of Salisbury, the institution is a land-grant, historically black college that started life as the Delaware Conference Academy. Since then, the 620-acre campus has had several name changes and governing bodies. It was known as Maryland State College from 1948 until 1970, when it became one of the five campuses that formed the University of Maryland.
  • Academically, UMES specializes in the arts and sciences, agriculture, and business. True to its land-grant heritage, it offers a number of programs geared to the needs of the region, including construction management, airway science, and hotel and restaurant management. Pre-professional training is available in eight fields, and its 10 graduate offerings include doctoral programs in toxicology and marine-estuarine-environmental sciences.
  • UMES students hail from 30 states and 55 other countries. More than half of them live on campus.
  • UMES has an annual operating budget of more than $63.8 million.