New president wants greater sense of community across campus

Interim president John Thornell listens at the March 2012 board of trustees quarterly meeting. At that time Thornell was in his third year as vice president for Academic Affairs and provost.

Students arriving this week saw evidence of physical changes to campus while less visible administrative changes also took place.

As the presidential search continues, John Thornell temporarily fills the position left vacant when William Cale announced his resignation from the presidency via email to faculty and staff in March.

Thornell served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost five years prior to his appointment as interim president.

The board of trustees announced the role change, effective July 1, at its June 9 quarterly meeting.

“Dr. Thornell was a clear choice in my mind as the right man for the job because of his proven history of academic success at UNA, which will remain the focal point of the university’s mission,” said board president Marty Abroms. “Based on my dealings with him, he has all of the capabilities to administer and direct UNA.”

Cale accepted an offer from the board to stay on as president emeritus until December.

“We don’t want the transition from Dr. Cale to me to cause any of the university’s large-scale projects to slow or come to a stop,” Thornell said.

Cale agreed.

“Both the board of trustees and I wanted to do everything we could to continue the university’s forward progress and to make the transition to an interim president and then a permanent one as seamless as possible,” Cale said.

He said in his new position he will assist with large-scale university projects that began under his leadership, including construction of a new science building and two new residence halls.

The position will also entail continuation of raising funds for scholarships and working with Alabama legislators to examine the state’s higher education funding, especially as it impacts regional universities like UNA, Cale said.

Because he will maintain full compensation, Cale is expected to make approximately $125,454 over the six-month period. According to the university spending website, Thornell and Cale are currently paid $20,909 per month.

Although Thornell will not enter his name in the search for a new university president, he said he will address issues and implement projects and initiatives that were not begun prior to his appointment.

“My job is not only to continue the projects we currently have going on,” Thornell said. “I want to push along the initiatives we already have, but there are new things I want to bring on board.

Those initiatives, he said, include improving the sense of community across campus.

He said, “We’re trying to create that kind of atmosphere that makes students want to be here — doing everything possible to make students feel comfortable at UNA.”

Vice President for Enrollment Management Thomas Calhoun temporarily fills Thornell’s former position as interim vice president for academic affairs and provost.