Thornton Ties Up Loose Ends of Union Contract Before Announcing Retirement

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Outgoing President Offered Seat on Foundation Board After Leaving

Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton. Photo by Felicia Jackson
Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton.
Photo by Felicia Jackson

By Bronson Peshlakai

The union that represents the professors of Cuyahoga Community College have reached an agreement, and approved, a new contract that begins Aug. 16, 2013, which the union president credits a collegial negotiation with the administration, and President Jerry Sue Thornton, who announced her retirement at a board of trustees meeting earlier.

“That is one of the things that Dr. Thornton and her forward-thinking manner wanted was to make sure this was done, and in a collegial manner, so that her successor will not be faced with a challenge right out of the box,” said Robert Jaskulski, president of the American Association of University Professors, Tri-C Chapter. “Both the administration and faculty engaged in imaginative and thoughtful discussions around a new system.”

The contract also stipulates a 4-percent, across-the-board salary increase for union members on top of a a one-time $1,000 cash payment in the first year.

Also adding to Thornton’s legacy in her waning days at Tri-C, she will still have a place to call home at Tri-C after her retirement which will be having a seat on the board of the Tri-C Foundation.

Thornton, 66, served as president of Tri-C for 21 years and is credited for raising tens of millions of dollars for student scholarships when she started the Tri-C Presidential Scholarship Luncheon in her inaugural year at Tri-C.

“The biggest thing for us is that she will be one of our directors on the foundation board,” said Gloria Moosmann, vice president for development and Tri-C scholarship. “It’s a nice transition. She is very excited she will have more time on her hands to volunteer.”

Thornton has requested the foundation to not spend any money or resources on celebrations or gifts commemorating her outgoing tenure as president but to keep those resources for student scholarships. In the spirit of her request, the foundation has agreed, and established the Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton Scholarship Fund of the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation, in her honor.

“Dr. Thornton certainly was a legendary figure at Tri-C,” Moosmann said. “She’s just been so great in supporting access of education for students. We want to have this scholarship in her name to recognize her leadership.”

“I started the presidential scholarship luncheon with my inauguration,” Thornton said. “Instead of an inauguration, we had the first luncheon. If the new president wants, I will be more than happy to participate.”

Thornton announced her intent to retire her position to the college board of trustees Jan. 24. Her intent is to retire from her position at the end of her contract which ends June 30, 2013.

Board of Trustee David Whitehead will lead a search committee for the next president. The college is expected to hire an executive search firm as well.

Whitehead said among other attributes, the committee will be looking for a candidate who has outstanding academic credentials and leadership capability.

“We will be looking for someone we feel will be comfortable in this environment. We have a Midwestern environment, but we also have some of the East Coast added into the Cleveland area,” Whitehead said. “Dr. Thornton was not from Cleveland, but she adapted and did outstanding in her tenure.”

He added that Thornton’s tenure here has raised the bar of excellence at the college and he anticipates outstanding candidates to apply for the job.

“I think that there is so much talent that the college will have great applicants,” Thornton said. “Their challenge will be to select among the candidates that are interested. They are thinking about the future of the college, and where it wants to go and making the right decision (on a candidate) in terms of the best fit.”

Whitehead said he expects to have faculty, staff, and even student input in determining who the next president of the college is. Jaskulski said he will serve on the search committee as a representative of the professor’s union.

“I will be looking for a candidate whose primary goal is to maintain academic quality and to not be tempted by expediency,” said Jaskulski about what he is looking for in a new president, not necessarily of what the search committee is looking for as a whole. “Someone who can navigate the extremely difficult waters of higher education at the point between adequate funding levels, and adequate attention to the departments to maintain their depth and quality.”

The college has set up a comprehensive website at www.tri-c-search.com that gives information about what a candidate can expect about Tri-C, it’s expectations, mission statement and qualifications of the job, and information about the college and its history.

Thornton is the longest serving president of the college, of only three presidents since the college’s inception in 1963. The other presidents at Tri-C were: Dr. Charles Chapman, who was appointed president in 1962, and who guided the college’s start-up as it opened; Dr. Nolen Ellison, became president in 1974, and oversaw the opening of the Western and Eastern campuses; and Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton, appointed in 1992. Since then, college enrollment expanded more than 40 percent to reach 32,000+ students across four campuses today.

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