UMES leader sparked growth

  • Monday, August 15, 2011

    UMES President Thelma B. Thompson, 2002-2011

    UMES leaders sparked growth

    By Liz Holland / staff writer

    PRINCESS ANNE -- (Aug. 15, 2011) -- After nine years at the helm of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Thelma B. Thompson has led a series of advances in academics, technology and commercial projects on the campus, but she is reluctant to take all the credit.

    "No one achieves anything by herself," she said. "The synergy was right -- it was a united effort here."

    Today is Thompson's last day as president of UMES before she retires to her home in Odenton, Md., which is closer to her 94-year-old mother and other family members.

    A native of Jamaica, she came to UMES in July 2002 from Norfolk State University, where she had been the school's chief academic officer.

    At the time, UMES had only four accredited academic programs, but that number grew to 26 during her tenure, including the most recent accreditation for the School of Business and Technology.

    During Thompson's presidency, UMES added professional golf management, engineering and pharmacy programs.

    This fall, UMES will offer a new bachelor's degree in urban forestry, and the campus is awaiting approval from the University (System) of Maryland Board of Regents for an emergency management program.

    Thompson also created an office of commercialization and technology, which led to an orchid farm, the Hawk-Sat satellite project with the Wallops Flight Facility and a new solar farm on campus.

    Believing that instruction should prepare graduates to work anywhere, Thompson placed emphasis on foreign travel and language instruction, including the recent opening of a Foreign Language Instruction Center on campus.

    Her years at UMES included building stronger ties with Somerset County and Princess Anne officials.

    "I told them, 'You support us with your tax dollars -- it's partially yours,' " she said. "The community responded."

    The UMES golf program now has an agreement with the county-owned Great Hope Golf Course in Westover. Students in the program play golf there, and some work as interns. The university has held its annual Art Shell UMES Celebrity Golf Classic there for the past two years.

    A few years ago, Princess Anne Town Commissioners held their first meeting on campus.

    "Students were invited and got to be observers in how government works," Thompson said. "That was good for them."

    Students from the campus also frequently volunteer for community service projects in town, including a recent cleanup of Manokin River Park by golf management and hotel and restaurant management majors.

    Dennis Williams, president of the Town Commissioners, said Thompson was instrumental in making UMES a part of the Princess Anne Main Street Partnership.

    "But what I'll miss most is dancing with her at the UMES Gala," he said.

    Thompson said she hasn't decided yet how she will spend her time.

    "I've received some calls," she said. "But I think I need a break."

    She hopes to do some writing, including fini