Press Release - USM Board of Regents Names New UMES President
May 23, 2002
USM Board of Regents Names New President of University of Maryland
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
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
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
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
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
Thompson has two grown children and two grown stepchildren.
Norfolk State Contact: Karla Johnson
- 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
- 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
- UMES has an annual operating budget of more than $63.8