|TWC President Armstrong: Surprised by request to resign
By Annette Bender
ATHENS, Tenn. Outgoing Tennessee Wesleyan President Thomas Armstrong says he was surprised when asked to resign by the Board of Trustee's executive committee, less than seven months after his October 2003 inauguration.
Every spring has its challenges on the college campus ... Springtime is when, if you're going to have a disturbance, that when it occurs because everyone's kind of tense.
Armstrong, whose resignation is effective June 30, acknowledged that some students were upset by his choice for a new dean of students. Some faculty were denied promotion. That hasn't happened around here very often, he said.
None of those things would lead you to believe that you would be asked to leave.
The board's executive committee announced May 13 that Armstrong had submitted his resignation. Lillian Cook, chair, declined to say why Armstrong was asked to resign.
There were just some concerns that been addressed over a period of time, and since the contract was up for renewal as of June 30, [the committee] thought this was an appropriate time to address the issues, she said.
Armstrong was professor of history and special assistant to the president at Texas Wesleyan University before serving as Tennessee Wesleyan's president beginning January 2003. He reportedly was chosen from 68 candidates who applied for the position following the resignation of former president James Dawson.
In a written statement, Bishop Ray Chamberlain said he regretted Armstrong's resignation. He came to us with high hopes for Tennessee Wesleyan College. In April, Tennessee Wesleyan students circulated petitions against Armstrong's choice for dean of students, Helena Bussell, also an educator from Texas Wesleyan. Armstrong said that a search committee partially comprised of students did not have the authority to choose a new dean of students, but were asked to recommend two to three unranked names. Bussell was not among the two candidates endorsed by the committee, Armstrong said.
In hindsight, I should have a done a better job of educating people that the ultimate decision was one I had to make, he said.
While Armstrong said Bussell's selection was one of the public expressions attributed to his resignation, he cited differences of opinion for vision and priorities. I was putting more emphasis on long-term planning and long-term development of the institution ... and not as much emphasis on some short-term fundraising initiatives that some of the executive committee wanted me to undertake, he said.
Other than a matter of timing, the kinds of things that were being asked are things that could and should, in time, be done. It's a matter of what comes first, he said.
Among his accomplishments are a list of 15 planning priorities endorsed by the board in April and improved connections between the college and Holston Conference, Armstrong said.
According to Cook, an interim president will be announced soon and a search committee appointed. The ideal candidate will be expected to strengthen academic and student relations and be active in fundraising, she said.
Chamberlain expressed confidence in the college's future and leadership.
Everyone can rest assured that the trustees under the leadership of Dr. Lillian Cook are aggressively working out transition plans and the selection of a new president, he stated. Tennessee Wesleyan College is not at risk. It is appropriately robust and poised for a healthy 2004-05 academic year.
Armstrong, 56, plans to move to a house he and his wife, Jan Fennell, recently purchased as a weekend/ retirement home in Maggie Valley, N.C. Although I don't anticipate retirement at this point. I'm at an age where I would like to work another 10-12 years.