EVP, Provost Mark Thompson reflects on 21 years at QU and plans ahead

By on April 16, 2019

“It’s been professionally and personally fulfilling in so many ways. I’m just thrilled I’ve had this opportunity.”

In 1998, Quinnipiac College was sparse. The then ‘Braves’ weren’t Division I and the School of Business was in the process of accreditation. Mark Thompson was hired in time to help finish off that process and began his role–the first of many, as associate dean of the School of Business.

A “place that was on the rise,” Thompson was drawn to Quinnipiac College, a growing school which sprawled across today’s Mount Carmel campus. What Thompson didn’t know, is that he would be a major player in assisting with this growth.

Chronicle File Photo
But this May, along with thousands of students, Thompson will ‘graduate’ from Quinnipiac and say goodbye to a place he’s called home for the last 21 years. He will assume his new role as President of Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston June 1 and according to the Boston Herald, Thompson will be the institution’s first president without an engineering background.

“I have to tell you it was a very difficult decision to make,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t actively looking for another position and it wasn’t a matter of just wanting to be a president for the sake if being a president. It had to be a very unique situation.”

In February 2019, Thompson became aware of the opportunity. He was contacted by a recruiter who he’s known for a long time.

“At first, when I heard about Wentworth Institute of Technology, I was a little bit dismissive of it because I didn’t really know a lot about it,” he said. “But the more I looked into it, the more it made sense in terms of where I think my skills would be a good match for what they need right now.”

Personally and professionally, the decision seemed like a good fit. He and his wife plan to spend this next chapter of their lives closer to loved ones. They will move to Massachusetts, joining their two daughters, Elizabeth (’16) and Kathryn (’18) and family.

“It started to check all of the boxes in terms of what makes sense,” he said. “It was a hard decision for me to leave a place that just has a lot of people that I love very deeply. So, it wasn’t a decision I made lightly.”

Reflecting back, Thompson said he has experienced tremendous professional success throughout his years, from the School of Business to senior vice president for academic and student affairs and now in his sixth year as executive vice president and provost.

“It wasn’t a plan to rise up the ladders, just more of whatever I was assigned to do, making sure I was doing as best I could at it and then the promotions and opportunities would follow,” Thompson said.

Raised in Cape Cod Massachusetts, Thompson didn’t dream of dedicating his life to education but instead, like most young men, found joy in his hobby–cars.

“It’s funny, there was a period of my life where I was 15 or 16 and I didn’t anticipate going to college at all,” Thompson said. “In fact, my freshman year was at a state school in Massachusetts, I didn’t do very well and I didn’t go back after my freshman year.”

Thompson didn’t attend Bentley until he was 24 years old. At Bentley, he received his undergraduate degree in economics and finance. Attending one–not to mention three colleges and spending a lifelong career in education, wasn’t something he had anticipated.

“Once I got underway, there was no stopping me,” he said. “I needed a period of time to mature and get my act together, which is why I am so focused on students success because I know part of it is on the students themselves, but part of it is on us to make sure they are supported and mentored in ways to make sure they are successful.”

Following Bentley, he received his MBA from Western New England University and then doctorate in economics from Georgia State University.

His dedication to learning and students success all began when he first stepped foot on QU’s campus.

“I can remember the first day here–first week,” Thompson said. “To be honest with you, I was very nervous and anxious about joining a new community. Pretty quickly I felt pretty comfortable once I got here.”

He was particularly nervous because this role was related to students success and he wanted to make sure he did it right. Of all the students who worked closely with him, the Student Government Association is at the top. 

“He cares about the students and has always had the students’ best interests at heart and his actions prove this to be true,” stated Victoria Johnson, senior Student Government Association vice president of public relations. “Dr. Thompson was an amazing asset to Quinnipiac and SGA; we will miss him dearly.”

Thompson attributes most of his success at the university to his opportunities to teach and interact with students but more than that, Thompson has remained committed to contributing to the community. His calm temper and eagerness to help has made him a popular administrator among the students.

Thompson said he appreciates the connections he has made with students.

“I’ve gotten a lot of nice thank you emails, cards and so forth from former students and as you are interacting with them in the moment, you don’t really recognize or have a sense as to the impact that you’re having,” Thompson said. “It just has been heart-warming to me, just to have people write to me. Some of whom I haven’t seen for a long period of time.”

In terms of physical accomplishments, Thompson played a major role in transforming Quinnipiac College into a university.

He assisted in establishing the School of Engineering, the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine and Quinnipiac University Online, and was a major contributor to the university’s accreditation processes with the New England Commission of Higher Education, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology and the American Bar Association, according to President Olian’s March 11 community email, ‘Transitions.’

“I have come to rely greatly on Mark’s wisdom, clarity of judgment, integrity and fairness, and dry humor. He will be sorely missed. This presidency is a wonderful opportunity for Mark, and Wentworth is fortunate to attract him,” stated Olian in the email.

But, looking back, his favorite moments remain those where he worked hands-on with students.

“There are certain things to me…but I would say the things that stick with me most, in terms of what’s most meaningful, are those individual student interactions and the opportunities that I had in the classroom,” Thompson said.

Thompson isn’t the only Bobcat in his family. His two daughters studied at the school and his wife Karyn has served as a First Year Seminar instructor, assisted in coordinating international experiences for School of Education students and led student trips to Nicaragua, according to Olian’s email.

In 2013, Elizabeth Thompson wrote a letter to the editor in The Chronicle sharing, “My dad is my role model, and I feel so lucky to get to share my college experience with one of the many people who have built Quinnipiac into the university that it is today.”

The opportunity to present both his daughters with their degrees is a moment he will never forget.

Looking ahead, he is excited about President Olian’s strategic plan and said that Quinnipiac is on the same positive path as it was 21 years ago.

“I think that President Olian is doing a great job in terms of identifying where there are opportunities for the university for the future,” Thompson said. “I am very excited about where the direction is going and I do think that the way the plan is shaping up, it is reflective of the university of the future and where we need to be positioned to best serve students.”

It’s what drew him here, the students, the strong sense of community and of course, the campus’ serene setting that he will miss the most.

He hopes the community remembers his serious commitment to student benefit and understands that this decision to leave did not come easy.

In response to other members of administration leaving, Thompson said each has their own story to tell and hopes the community will not misinterpret the news as something that it’s not.

“I can understand why one would get the impression that it’s something other than it is, but it’s just–each has its own individual stories,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate leaving, it was just the opportunity came to me and I assessed it and decided it was a good thing for me to pursue.”

Thompson doesn’t anticipate this next chapter to be much different personally. He’ll continue to play golf, cook, entertain and travel with family. He’s excited to sink his teeth into this new opportunity to serve students.

No one has been selected yet to replace Thompson and Jennifer Brown, Dean of the School of Law since 2013, will assume the role of Interim EVP and Provost starting June 1.

“My hope would be that they will have the same experience that I’ve had,” Thompson said. “My hope is that coming in, they will have the same viewpoint that I do, that the students are first and everything else derives from that. I hope they recognize what they have here, in terms of the valuable assets that they have a very committed faculty and staff.”

He advises his successor to “make sure they don’t lose their way,” and to come into the role with a genuine commitment to service to students as he did.

“I wish Dr. Thompson nothing but the best,” Johnson said. “Wentworth is lucky to have him.” 

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About Amanda Perelli

Managing Editor
Journalism Major
Class of 2019