The incoming president of Fort Lewis College said Friday she intends to engage the widespread community in finding ways
to reverse declining enrollment, set campus priorities, make budget cuts in face of revenue shortfalls and bring new
financial support to the campus.
You've welcomed me with open arms," Dene Kay Thomas told FLC students, faculty members and administrative staffers at
an informal get-together at the Community Concert Hall on campus. I will not bring my wisdom to you but work with you
to take this very good school with opportunity and potential forward."
Thomas, the college's eighth president and the first woman to hold the post, will replace Brad Bartel on July 1. She
comes to FLC from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, where she was president for nine years.
In introducing her, FLC board president Richard Ballantine, publisher of The Durango Herald, said Thomas has deep roots
in Minnesota and is a product of that state's generous support of education. She has been very successful at
Lewis-Clark, he said.
Thomas said she welcomes suggestions from all sides - campus, community, legislators and Native American tribes - to
make Fort Lewis College a better institution.
We'll put our collective views together as friends and community," Thomas said. The result will be better than my
views or yours alone."
FLC announced the choice of Thomas on March 26. She was picked from three finalists and 110 original candidates.
Among her observations and responses to audience questions:
As the college's first woman president, she bears a particular responsibility but will attempt to live up to the
In making budget cuts, she will try to protect academic programs as much as possible but hasn't looked into
specifics. A budget proposal calls for Fort Lewis to cut $1.6 million by July 1 and $2.9 million more by July 1, 2012.
She is not new to paring budgets, having faced the task at Lewis-Clark in 2002 and 2009.
If students are satisfied with their experience at FLC they can be effective ambassadors in recruiting new
It's time to get started in planning for the Fort Lewis College centennial next year.
She wants to meet tribal students and adult leaders to learn about their needs and goals.
The door to her office is open to all. She is available in person, by telephone or e-mail.
The campus infrastructure can support an enrollment of 5,000. (Enrollment now stands at 3,685, the lowest number of
students in a decade.)
I don't want to import a system from there to here," Thomas said in reference to her work with Native American tribes
in Idaho. We have to work together."