Thursday, 4:30 PM
UMass-Amherst taps interim chancellor
By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff
Thomas W. Cole Jr., a former president of Clark Atlanta University, is poised to become the interim chancellor at UMass-Amherst.
The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees are expected to approve his appointment at its meeting tomorrow.
Robert Connolly, a spokesman for UMass system president Jack Wilson, who is recommending Cole to the trustees, said Cole "has the experience, the passion and the leadership skills needed to keep UMass Amherst moving in the right direction and building on its tradition of excellence."
Cole succeeds outgoing chancellor John Lombardi, who will take over as president of the Louisiana State University system Sept. 1.
In May, the news that Lombardi would be stepping down as chancellor as part of a series of leadership shuffles sparked controversy at Amherst and a faculty no-confidence vote in Wilson. Cole, UMass officials said, will not be a candidate for the permanent post.
Former Northeastern University president Richard Freeland and Evan Dobelle, president of the New England Board of Higher Education and former president of the University of Hawaii, had also been considered for the position.
A chemist, Cole Jr., 66, retired as president of Clark Atlanta University in 2002 and was president of Great Schools Atlanta, a local education fund, from 2004 to 2006.
Clark Atlanta University is a historically black, four-year liberal arts college with about 5,800 students. It was created when Atlanta University and Clark College consolidated in 1988, and Cole became its first president the next year.
During his tenure from 1989 to 2002, enrollment rose from 3,150 to 5,200 students.
Cole joined the faculty of Atlanta University in 1966 as an assistant chemistry professor. He later served as the first director of the Atlanta Resource Center for Science and Engineering (1979 to 1982), and was a visiting professor at the University of Illinois and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1982 to 1986, he was president of West Virginia State College.
A Texas native, he graduated summa cum laude from Wiley College in 1961 and earned a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1966.
Trustee Lawrence Boyle said he supported Cole's selection as chancellor.
"Based on background and experience, he seems like the perfect individual to step in," he said.