Dr. Thomas Pearson decided he will be stepping down as provost at the end of the spring 2014 semester after 22 years in the position.
“I am stepping down because this is the right time, but I serve at the president’s pleasure and he said he would like to make the change,” Pearson said. He also said that he had discussed the possible stepping down with each presidential candidate but is proud of his 22 years of service as provost.
Pearson compared the job of provost as being “an air traffic controller for the University.” He added, “I have a range of feelings; mixed feelings. My first feeling is grateful for being able to serve as long a time as I did… I had the privilege of leading the academic side while great things were happening at the University.”
University President Paul Brown explained that the informal title of the provost is the Chief Academic Officer. “Everything that happens on campus that’s academic oriented falls under the provost,” he said. “So that’s courses, when they’re offered, the timing, who teaches them, when they’re not offered.” He also explained that the provost also selects which faculty is hired along with which faculty gets promoted.
Pearson is not leaving the University, he is stepping down to return to teach in the Department of History and Anthropology which was the department he started in when he was first hired by the University in 1978. He served as a faculty member until 1992 when he was hired as the provost after the previous provost was fired.
Pearson explained that his greatest accomplishments as provost were often “collaborative efforts” but one particular event he recalled was transforming Monmouth College to Monmouth University.
Under Pearson as the provost, approximately 89 percent of the full-time faculty members were hired and he served under four different University presidents.
Along with Pearson’s achievements in the academic field, he brought the Provost Film Series to the University; A free annual event that allows viewers to watch films involving other countries and cultures.
One thing he will miss about the position is planning the future of the University. “Sometimes it is one of the more draining parts of this job when you want to grow and create new programs,” said Pearson. “That’s also the fun part, sometimes not the process, but once you get there you get to see the results of your work… I do a lot of thinking about where we were and where we are going.”
The process of finding another provost to take Pearson’s position has begun, according to Brown. “We have done extensive advertising, we have done extensive outreach, we have established processes to follow to apply [and] we will have public forums coming up once the finalists are identified,” he said.
Brown has created an advisory group to help him with the process of selecting another provost. The group consists of: Nahid Aslabeigui (professor of economics), Grey Dimenna (Vice President and General Counsel), Rekha Datta (professor of political science), Robin Mama (Dean of the School of Social Work) and David Marshall (Chair of the Mathematics Department), according to an email from Brown to all University employees. He explained that the advisory group’s goal is to have a new provost by the beginning of the 2014 fall semester.
During Pearson’s 22 years as the provost, he has gotten to know many faculty members and many would agree that he left his mark on the University.
Several members of the University wished to say a couple of words about Pearson.
“I think it is important that we thank him for his many years of service to the advancement of the academic experience here at Monmouth. We have really transformed the academic experience under his leadership and look forward to continuing to build on the strong foundation he has laid,” said Mary Ann Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement.
“…Tom’s passion and love for Russian history and teaching is so strong that I can understand why he wants to return to teaching. I think the real beneficiaries are the students that will have the privilege and opportunity to take his classes in the future. A great teacher like Tom can have an incredible impact on students,” said Patti Swannack, Vice President for Administrative Services.
“…It is very unusual for a provost to serve in that position for 22 years. Dr. Pearson has been an exception not only in providing the long service but to have done that in an exemplary way and with numerous major accomplishments … I would like to thank Dr. Pearson for the confidence he placed in me to carry out the duties of the graduate school office and of the vice provost,” said Dr. Datta Naik, Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School and Continuing Education.
“We will be thrilled to have him back in the History [and] Anthropology Department. The first rate institution of higher learning that Monmouth is today owes more to him than perhaps to any other single individual,” said Frederick McKitrick, Chair/ Associate Professor of History and Anthropology.
“…[Pearson] should be congratulated for his dedication and transformative working in making Monmouth the fine university it is today … Congratulations on returning to your first love, teaching,” said Stanton Green, Dean of School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“…Professor Pearson has always respected the academic enterprise. He understands what is needed for first-rate teaching, scholarship and service. I especially admire that during all his years as provost, despite the job’s endless demands, he has [taught each year] his course in Russian history,” said Brian Greenberg, Jules Plangere Professor of American Social History.
“My fondest memory [of Pearson] is listening to his stories about his trips to Russia with the Monmouth University group. My dream is to one day join his Russian tour and learn from Russian history expert Provost Pearson,” said Petra Ludwig Shaw, director of public relations.
“Tom Pearson has been a strong, dynamic and caring provost. He oversaw Monmouth’s transition from a college to a noted regional university. He also led the University during a period of incredible growth. He is one of the hardest working and most thoughtful individuals I have ever met. The Monmouth University we know and love today is in large part a reflection of his dedication and hard work. We have been very lucky indeed to have such a talented leader,” said Richard Veit, professor of history and anthropology.
“Provost Pearson is a great teacher with an extensive knowledge of Russian and Soviet histories, an accomplished scholar and a kind gentleman. His steady hands at the helm of Academic Affairs for 22 years and his counsel have brought stability and excellence to Monmouth University…” said Dr. Salib Sarsar, Assistant Vice President for Global Initiatives.
“…His legendary love for foreign films culminated in the Provost’s film series. He won’t be Provost starting July, but I would love for us to keep on the tradition of the film series, perhaps as Pearson’s Film Series,” said Dr. Rekha Datta, a professor of political science.
“[I feel a] lot of thank you. You sound inadequate when you say ‘thank you’ after decades of what he’s done but I appreciate what he’s done. A lot of respect for what he’s done for us … He just deserves the recognition … Enjoy it, Tom. You richly deserve the time that’s coming up,” said Brown.
Pearson did have a few kind words for the person who will be taking his place in the fall of 2014.
“I would say the main words would be ‘Welcome to Monmouth University’ and you have so much amazing talent to work with and I think if you respect the sense of community here but at the same time know we will be counting on the provost to be providing excellent leadership,” said Pearson.
PHOTOS TAKEN by Jacklyn Kouefati