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Clarke University Presidential Search

Presidential Search Update

February 26, 2019

Dear Friends of Clarke University,

Today, it is my pleasure to share with you the successful outcome of our presidential search process. The Board of Trustees is thrilled to name Dr. Thom D. Chesney the 16thpresident of Clarke University. Dr. Chesney is an innovative college president, experienced teacher, and a product of—and passionate spokesperson for—the kind of education that sets Clarke apart from so many institutions. He currently serves as president of Brookhaven College, part of the Dallas (TX) Community College System.

When he joins Clarke later this year, Dr. Chesney will bring great energy and optimism, as well as a profound personal commitment to and track record of fostering academic excellence, expanding educational access and attainment, deepening regional and national engagement, and strengthening diversity and inclusion. During his leadership of Brookhaven College, Dr. Chesney has provided transformative educational programs, learning opportunities, and lifetime experiences to its students.

Among his accomplishments is the completion of a strategic plan that drove increased student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates, as well as public/private partnerships, international engagement, faculty and staff development, and resources. In addition, he oversaw the creation of 19 early college high schools within the Dallas Independent School District over a period of two years and crafted degree-pathway agreements with more than 12 public and private institutions of higher education to provide Brookhaven students with ways to minimize credits taken and debt incurred. This type of forward-thinking, strategic and innovative leadership will help position Clarke to build on its history of success.

Dr. Chesney’s extensive experience in leadership at higher education institutions prior to Brookhaven includes positions as associate provost for Student Success and Assessment for The University of Texas (UT) at Dallas; vice president of Academic Affairs and provost of Collin College; and additional faculty and administrative roles at UT Dallas, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Texas Wesleyan University, and Whitman College.

He is a committed community leader and volunteer, serving locally on the board of the Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce and Metrocrest Services advisory committee, and nationally on the American Council on Education (ACE) Spectrum Aspiring Leaders Program, the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) Commission on Economic and Workforce Development, and the COMBASE Board of Directors. He also serves as chair of the leadership programs advisory committee for the McKinney Chamber of Commerce and has been named to Collin County’s 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. He was named the 2014 Citizen of the Year by the Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Chesney earned a doctor of philosophy in English literature from Florida State University, a master of arts in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a bachelor of arts in Spanish with a minor in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Chesney will succeed President Burrows on July 15, 2019, following her successful 13-year tenure. He and his wife, Noelle, who possesses a doctor of musical arts in vocal performance, has extensive performance, directing, and teaching experience, and is the founding artistic director of Brick Road Theatre, are the parents of Drew, 18, and Ellen, 14.

If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Chesney, I encourage you to visit the Clarke website. I know he looks forward to getting to know more about the university and the many people who help make it the special place it is.

This exciting day in Clarke’s history would not have been possible without the exceptional leadership of President Burrows, who has brought the university to new heights during her tenure as president, and the tireless and collegial work of the Search Committee. This group of individuals, with the assistance of our search partners at Witt/Kieffer, had the unenviable task of assessing and interviewing many extremely qualified applicants in order to find the right next leader for Clarke, a job they performed with optimism and professionalism.

Lastly, I want to thank you for your interest in the future of Clarke University and your ongoing support of the vital work being done on our campus to prepare students for a life of personal and professional success.


Rob Wahlert
Board and Search Committee Chair