Former Clark Atlanta University president Thomas Cole Jr. is set to take over the UMass-Amherst campus for the next year, replacing a chancellor who left the school at odds with its administrators.
The board of trustees was expected to approve Cole’s appointment as interim chancellor of the flagship campus at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, trustee chairman Stephen Tocco said Tuesday.
“We’re thrilled to have him,” Tocco said.
Cole, 66, led Clark Atlanta from 1989 until his retirement in 2002, when he was named president emeritus.
Tocco said Cole is a good fit to help the Amherst campus boost its fundraising, oversee several building projects and bolster the school’s faculty. Cole will not be a candidate for a permanent chancellor, and is expected to serve for about a year, Tocco said.
Cole replaces John Lombardi, who is leaving UMass after clashing with trustees and president Jack Wilson over plans to restructure the five-campus university system. Lombardi will take over as president of Louisiana State University next month.
“I’m very optimistic and I look forward to working with him,” said Ernest May, secretary of the Faculty Senate who was one of many professors who supported Lombardi and felt the chancellor was muscled out of his job. “I hope he’s the type of person who can dampen down the controversy we’ve been dealing with.”
Cole could not be reached for comment Tuesday. A UMass spokesman said he was traveling between Boston and Atlanta.
Cole was Clark Atlanta’s first president, and was one of the architects behind the school’s creation when Atlanta University merged with Clark College in 1988.
Clark Atlanta is the largest of the United Negro College Fund institutions, with an enrollment of 5,000 students. It is the only private historically Black college classified as a doctoral or research-intensive institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
During Cole’s tenure, the university’s budget grew from $40 million to $120 million.
Cole was born in Texas and earned a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1966. He started teaching chemistry that year at Atlanta University and rose to the school’s vice president of academic affairs in 1979. He was a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was a chancellor at West Virginia State College before being appointed president of Clark College in 1988.
He served as president of Clark and Atlanta University while the schools were merging during the next year.
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