Ryan Thomas, who has spent the last seven years as president of the College of Eastern Utah, is resigning from that position and will be gone from the campus sometime after graduation this spring.
That announcement came from the board of regents on Monday afternoon but the plans for him to leave have been in his mind for sometime, according to Thomas.
"When we came here my wife and I discussed the fact that when I turned 55 I would go back into teaching, so we decided to stick with the original plan," said Thomas on Monday morning. "But even though we had committed to that as a family sometime ago, this was a hard decision for us."
Thomas came to the college at a time when there was a lot of turmoil on campus. The school had just gone through an administration that a lot of people blamed for numerous problems and CEU seemed more isolated than ever from the community that surrounds it. Since that time Thomas commented that one of his main goals was to grow the relationship and make it better.
"There was a sense of uneasiness between the community and the school. And I have worked over the last seven years to help that situation," said Thomas. "That has been an important focus for our entire administration in that time. We wanted both Price and Blanding to feel a part of the college."
Thomas came to CEU in 2000 from Utah Valley State College where he had worked for eight years as the vice president of student services, the dean of computer and business services and the dean of engineering.
Thomas has a law degree from Brigham Young University which he obtained early in his career. After getting that degree he practiced law in Los Angeles, Calif. for a few years and then ended up in Rexburg, Idaho being the general counsel for Ricks College (now known as BYU-Idaho).
After some time there, he became the director of student services at BYU in Provo and stayed there for 12 years before moving on to UVSC. It was during that time that he received his PhD.
Thomas commented that the decision to leave was not only based on a plan but also on family ties that are spreading out across the country, particularly along the Wasatch Front.
"Both Ann and I have aging parents in the Ogden area and some of our kids are there too," he said. "We want to live in close proximity to them if we can."
Thomas has some old ties to eastern Utah and will still feel he is leaving home when he moves.
|Two students stand in front of the Reeves Building on the College of Eastern Utah campus. This building, constructed to the north of the BDAC, replaced the old main building during Ryan Thomas' time as president and now serves as the college's center for science and general education.|
"My grandfather was a coal miner and my father was born in Sunnyside," he stated. "My father was a foreman at the Castle Gate mine when the big disaster occurred there and that left a real imprint on him. While not all my kids grew up here, we spent enough time with relatives in the area that many of them also consider this home."
One of the things Thomas remembers the best about when he came here to serve as president of the college was the friendliness of the place.
"A week after we arrived here I was walking through the bakery in a local grocery store and one of the men working there told me how glad he was that we were here," he said. "That was a good feeling. I felt I was in the midst of friends. There is a warmth here that is remarkable."
Thomas said along with trying to get the community and college to be closer together he feels he has been affiliated with two other notable accomplishments. First, was getting the school out of debt. When he came to the school, it was $1.9 million in the red.
"We are completely out of debt now and I feel very good about that," he said.
Second was an accreditation issue he faced right after taking the job.
"In that first year the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools made a visit and pointed out a number of areas in which the school was lacking," he said. "We fixed those things and were able to get back into good standing with them."
Recent developments concerning the possible merger between CEU and USU has been the newest issue to raise its head. Thomas said that the issue had nothing to do with him resigning.
The board of regents had high praise for Thomas, when they discussed the issue in a meeting last week.
"President Thomas has made tremendous contributions to CEU as well as to the Utah system of higher education," said Jed. H. Pitcher, regents chairman. "We are grateful for his dedication, sacrifice, and committed service to the students, the college and this state. He will be missed."
The state board will announce an interim president for the college by the end of the academic year.