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Thom D. Chesney Named 16th President of Clarke University

By Clarke News  |  August 30, 2019

Dubuque, Iowa – Clarke University today announced the appointment of Thom D. Chesney as its 16th president. An accomplished leader, educator, and community volunteer, Chesney is currently president of Brookhaven College, part of the Dallas County Community College District (TX).

Chesney’s appointment, the result of a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees, was announced by Robert C. Wahlert, chair, during a campus-wide event on Clarke’s campus. He will assume his responsibilities on July 15, 2019, following the retirement of President Burrows after a successful 13-year tenure at Clarke.

“Dr. Chesney will build on Clarke’s commitment to student success, both inside and outside the classroom, through his collaborative leadership style grounded in the Clarke values of freedom, justice, charity, and education,” said Wahlert. “He has the proven ability to imagine and implement, in partnership with faculty, staff, and supporters, the kind of educational experience that will set Clarke apart and continue to prepare Clarke graduates for meaningful personal and professional lives.”

“The opportunity to join the work of Clarke University, and become deeply rooted in the larger community, is an enormous privilege,” said Chesney. “A university that honors its faith, history, and community roots in its programs, partnerships, and institutional culture is vital to the health of our society, and Clarke leads by example in this and so many other areas. I look forward to building on the rich history of the university as we together shape our vision for the future.”

“Dr. Chesney brings an impressively diverse and broad career in higher education to Clarke,” said President Joanne Burrows, SC. “As we work together for a smooth transition later this year, I know he and his family will receive a warm and generous welcome from the many people who love Clarke and wish for its continued success.”

Chesney has led Brookhaven College as president since 2011, helping to provide transformative educational programs, learning opportunities, and lifetime experiences to its students. Among his accomplishments at Brookhaven are the stewardship 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 led the college district’s team that created, in partnership with the Dallas Independent School District, 19 early college high schools at the seven DCCCD colleges over a period of two years and crafted transfer 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.

Prior to joining Brookhaven College, Chesney’s extensive experience in leadership at higher education institutions 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.

Chesney is a committed community leader and volunteer, serving locally on the board of the Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce, which named him the 2014 Citizen of the Year, and Metrocrest Services advisory committee, and nationally on the American Council on Education Spectrum Aspiring Leaders Program, the American Association of Community College’s 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.

Chesney, 52, 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. His wife, Noelle, 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. The couple has two children, Drew and Ellen.

The Presidential Search Committee, the members of which are listed below, was assisted by Dennis M. Barden, senior partner; Concetta Stewart, principal; and Elizabeth K. Bohan, senior associate of the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer.

  • Bill Biebuyck, Vice President for Institutional Advancement
  • Karen Chiappetta ’83, Trustee
  • Mary Rose Corrigan M’04, Trustee Vice Chair
  • Margaret Mary Cosgrove, Trustee
  • Ellen Gabrielleschi, Professor of Drama & Musical Theatre
  • Jennifer Mai DPT’06, Associate Chair and Professor of Physical Therapy
  • Regina Qualls, Trustee serving as non-voting Committee Secretary
  • Maureen Quann ’97, Trustee
  • Jane Daly Seaberg ’78, Trustee
  • Rob Wahlert, Trustee Chair and Search Committee Chair

Learn more about our president-elect >>

For more information, contact the Clarke University President’s Office at (563)588-6377.

Clarke University will celebrate its 175th anniversary throughout the 2018-19 academic year. Founded in 1843 by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Clarke is located near the Mississippi River in the thriving city of Dubuque, Iowa. It is the only BVM university in the country.

Clarke is a Catholic, liberal arts and sciences university dedicated to preparing students who positively impact their workplace, family, and community. Academic offerings include 37 undergraduate liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs, and six graduate degree programs.