University of Puget Sound President Ron Thomas has announced he plans to leave the post at the end of the 2015-16 academic year.
Thomas became the 13th president of the Tacoma liberal arts university in 2003. His career in higher education spans 34 years.
A national search for the university’s 14th president will begin this summer under the leadership of Robert C. Pohlad, chairman-elect of the UPS board of trustees.
In a message to students, faculty and staff Monday, the day after this year’s commencement ceremonies, Thomas said that it was “a right and natural time for a leadership transition.”
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During his tenure, UPS implemented a decade-long strategic plan and concluded the most successful fundraising campaign in the university’s history, raising more than $127 million for endowment, capital projects and annual operating funds. He also led development of a master plan for the Central Tacoma campus that includes the recently completed health sciences center and a new athletic and aquatics center, which is scheduled for completion in 2016.
Thomas has national leadership roles in several university associations and has sought in recent years to strengthen ties between UPS and the Tacoma community. One example is the Tacoma Public Schools Commitment, announced last year. It commits the university to meeting the financial needs of students who graduate from one of Tacoma’s eight public high schools and are admitted to UPS beginning in the 2015-16 academic year. The aid comes as a combination of scholarships, grants, loans and work-study jobs.
“Puget Sound has achieved new heights in admission, academic achievement, retention and fundraising in every year of Ron’s presidency,” board of trustees Chairman Richard M. Brooks said in a news release.
Thomas is the longest-serving top leader at Pierce County’s four-year universities — a group that includes President Thomas Krise at Pacific Lutheran University (hired in 2012) and Chancellor Mark Pagano at University of Washington Tacoma (hired this year).
Thomas hasn’t announced his future plans but indicated he would like to return to research and writing in the field of Victorian literature. His wife, Mary, has served on boards for the YWCA, Northwest Sinfonietta, the Museum of Glass and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.
Thomas said he plans a busy final year on campus, marked by the new athletic center project, the next phase of a constituent engagement and fundraising program, advancing a diversity strategic plan and more.
“I plan to remain as deeply engaged with you and the work of Puget Sound in my final year as in my first,” Thomas said in his message to the university community. “I love this university and I love this job. I can honestly say the last 12 years have been the most meaningful and fulfilling of my life.”