Chowan selects first female president

Published 5:10 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

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By Kim Sherman Bailey

University Relations

MURFREESBORO – Dr. Rosemary M. Thomas has been selected as the 24th — and first female — president in the 175-year history of Chowan University.

Dr. Thomas will take office on March 11, 2024.

Dr. Rosemary M. Thomas

The announcement came Monday (Dec. 18) after a special called meeting of Chowan’s Board of Trustees where the Presidential Search Committee, chaired by Jane Burke, presented the committee’s recommended presidential candidate to the full board. The ensuing vote was unanimous to select Dr. Thomas as the university’s next president.

“After a national search, the presidential search committee was excited to have a pool of candidates with outstanding experience and leadership expertise,” stated Burke. “Dr. Thomas’ leadership success in small universities similar to Chowan will be an asset as she navigates the challenges all small private universities across the country are currently facing. She is focused on the success and overall well-being of students, faculty, staff and the overall success of Chowan University.

“Her ability and desire to be involved in and unite the Chowan family, including the community, will be a tremendous asset to Chowan’s future success. I am excited to see Chowan’s growth under Dr. Thomas’ leadership,” Burke added.

Dr. Thomas brings a wealth of experience to her new role, having served as the Executive Vice President at Davis and Elkins College, located in West Virginia. In that position, she was responsible for enrollment management, marketing and communications, oversight of the dean of student life, dining services, compliance, and special assignments from the president. She also served as Acting Director of Athletics and led the COVID-19 Task Force.

Her first assignment at Davis and Elkins College began in 2017 when she was hired as the Vice President of Enrollment Management and Institutional Advancement. Most notably, during that tenure, she successfully implemented a campus-wide retention initiative and was vital in completing a $100 million fundraising campaign.

“The opportunity to serve Chowan University is indeed an honor and a privilege,” shared Dr. Thomas. “I see the future of this institution as being very bright and transformative for the students as well as the greater community. Successful higher education institutions of today require unprecedented dedication, collaboration, vision, and courage – I have seen first-hand all of these attributes and many more in the faculty and staff of this celebrated Christian university. I look forward to getting to know and working with all members of the Chowan family as we strive for continued success and enhanced opportunities for all stakeholders.”

Prior to her time at Davis and Elkins College, Dr. Thomas held various leadership positions at institutions such as Frostburg State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Salisbury University, and Glenville State College. She served as the Chief Operating Officer at the General Foundation of Women’s Clubs International Office in Washington, DC. Her extensive background in university and foundation management has equipped her with the leadership skills that are essential to leading Chowan University into the future.

Dr. Thomas is also deeply committed to community service and volunteerism. She currently serves as the president of the GFWC Woman’s Club of Elkins, director of American Legion Auxiliary WV Rhododendron Girls State, and president of the Community Care of West Virginia board of directors, to name a few. Her dedication to these organizations reflects her passion for making a positive impact in the communities she serves.

As a nationally recognized speaker and workshop leader, Dr. Thomas has shared her expertise on board relations, volunteer management, fundraising, and marketing strategies. Her focus on leadership development has been instrumental in shaping the lives of leaders from all walks of life.

Dr. Thomas is a native of Fairmont, West Virginia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications from Clemson University, a Master of Public Administration from the University of South Carolina, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from West Virginia University. She has also completed post-doctoral work at Harvard University.