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President Thelma Thompson to retire at Maryland-Eastern Shore

University of Maryland Eastern Shore
March 21, 2011
Dr. Thelma B. Thompson announced today she will retire on Aug. 15 as president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

“I’ve reached a point in my career here at UMES where I am comfortably saying that I have accomplished what I set out to do,” Dr. Thompson said. “The time is right for me to move on to the next stage of my life professionally and personally.”

Her decision ends a nine-year tenure at the state’s lone 1890 land-grant university.

Dr. Thompson came to Princess Anne in the summer of 2002 from Norfolk State University in Virginia, where she had been that institution’s top academic policymaker. She immediately became a visible and forceful voice for change and unprecedented growth.

At that time, UMES was declared a low-performing institution by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The university was in grave danger of losing its ability to receive federal funding. Because over 90 percent of UMES students receive financial aid, the school was threatened with closure.

Four degree programs met rigorous standards for instruction in their respective disciplines when Dr. Thompson arrived. She made pursuit of accreditation a priority and today 25 of UMES’ academic programs have that coveted peer endorsement.

Stressing academic quality did not go unnoticed by the University System of Maryland’s top leaders.

“As president of UMES, Dr. Thompson focused relentlessly on excellence,” USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan said. “Under her guidance, the university introduced new and unique programs that have both widened opportunities for students and enhanced the region’s and the state’s growth and economic development. UMES has earned and maintained critical academic program accreditations and has consistently earned U.S. News & World Report’s ranking as one of the country’s best historically black institutions.

“President Thompson also has instilled a culture of entrepreneurship, enabling the institution to innovate and enhance its excellence and impact. I know the entire USM community joins me in thanking President Thompson for her visionary leadership and wishing her success as she embarks on the next phase of her life,” Kirwan said.

Clifford M. Kendall, chair of USM’s Board of Regents, said the state and UMES have benefitted from Dr. Thompson’s leadership.

“On behalf of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, I thank President Thompson for her outstanding service to UMES, USM, and the state of Maryland,” Kendall said.

“Without a doubt, UMES has thrived under her nine years of leadership, earning national recognition for its wide array of programs, including engineering and aviation science, construction-management technology, hotel and restaurant management, professional golf management, and its new doctoral program in pharmacy.” Kendall said.

Just 13 people have led UMES, an historically black institution, and Dr. Thompson’s time in the leadership role ranks as fifth longest. She is the second woman to be president.
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