College president takes new position

By Jubenal Aguilar
[email protected]

Thom Chesney, Brookhaven College president, will complete his tenure with the Dallas County Community College District after the spring semester. He has been named president-elect of Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.

Chesney will continue to serve as Brookhaven’s president through May.

“Although I am excited to be offered the new challenge, I will be sad to leave Brookhaven where over the past seven and a half years I have experienced many of the greatest joys of my professional life,” Chesney said in a Feb. 26 campuswide email.

Chesney is Brookhaven’s seventh and longest-serving president. “Since 2011, Thom has been an outstanding example to us all as president of Brookhaven, while also serving as a leader within the DCCCD network,” Joe May, DCCCD chancellor, said in a Feb. 26 districtwide email.

Before Brookhaven, Chesney was an assistant associate provost at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Brookhaven has seen many changes under Chesney’s leadership. Enrollment has grown and partnerships with Dallas and Carrollton/Farmers Branch independent school districts have brought students from three area high schools to Brookhaven.

“We began to emphasize more of our focus on sustainability and resilience [in] what we’re doing not just with recycling, but with our own energy use,” Chesney said.

Carrie Schweitzer, director of sustainability, said Chesney created the office she is responsible for after students expressed interests in Brookhaven having an office of sustainability.

“Working with Thom has been just one of the nicest experiences of my professional life,” Schweitzer said. “I believe that he has allowed me to be my authentic self.”

The Hub, the college’s new center for student and academic services, was also opened under a grant obtained during Chesney’s time at Brookhaven.

Chesney said he accepted the position at Clarke because both schools are very similar. During his visits to the university and talks with students, he said he found a familiar and challenging atmosphere that reminded him of Brookhaven.

Chesney said he found out about the job posting after a close friend told him about it. “I didn’t find it so much as it found me,” he said. Initially he just looked at the position profile and did not think much of it until he spoke to a member of Clarke’s search committee.

“I realized it did seem very much like the things I value,” Chesney said. “What their values are and their mission is, is really closely related to my own.”

Clarke is a small, private liberal arts college with an enrollment of about 1,200 students – about a tenth the size of Brookhaven.

“I’ll always be a follower of what’s going on at Brookhaven,” Chesney said. “There’s no question about that.”

He said one of the things he will miss the most is the people and relationships built at Brookhaven. “There are so many I’d like to carry forward that I’d like to bring to Iowa,” Chesney said.

He said he will also miss hearing about students’ success at Brookhaven. Big points of pride for Chesney include hearing about students’ success in The Courier, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Student Government Association, as well as other organizations, he said.

Chesney said a highlight of experiencing student success was seeing the women’s soccer team win their first national championship in 2017 in New Jersey.

But his favorite memories come from the commencement graduation. “[It’s] my favorite day of the year,” Chesney said. “Going to that ceremony and seeing students and our employees, and especially parents and families and loved ones and people who care all in the same space at the same time to celebrate that. That’s one of the most emotionally charged days of the year.”