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Op-Ed: Thomas More College is Seeing Lots of Positive Change, Growth

There are some amazing things happening at Thomas More College (TMC) these days.  

In case you hadn’t heard, their ladies basketball team just won another national title. But ever since President David Armstrong took over nearly three years ago, there have been a number of announcements, events, and milestones to brag about.

The success happening at TMC isn’t a coincidence. The strategy to engage with the community and innovate within the college is something we should also be talking about.

It hasn’t been easy.

After an initial six month welcoming period, Armstrong was met with resistance as he attempted to balance the budget. He wasn’t fazed. “That’s how steel is made.” Armstrong told me. “It first goes through a furnace.”

In addition to a 2-year tuition freeze, there were new innovations like an online master’s program and a new athletic training program. They also implemented “free books for all students” and new offerings that promote, “achieving a master’s degree in 5 years.”    

These moves have resulted in increases in both enrollment and fundraising.  

In Armstrong’s first year the total enrollment was 1,605. This year it was 1,921. Combine those growth numbers with the fact they were recently ranked #1 in KY for return on investment (ROI), and things are looking pretty good.   

The success seems to have put an extra spring in President Armstrong’s step.  And if you know him, you know that’s really saying something. He always seems to have an endless source of energy!  

I’ve heard it said, more than once, the guy is everywhere. One minute he’s at the NKY Chamber of Commerce luncheon sitting next to new Secretary for Education and Workforce Development (Hal Heiner), the next he’s at a NKY Education Council board meeting. It’s been like that since he took the job. He attended more than 320 events in his first 12 months alone!  

“I’m trying to be everywhere because our students and alumni are everywhere,” Armstrong explains.

The Thomas More board and the community have noticed.  

“Under President Armstrong's leadership, the College is making great progress on realizing it's strategic plan.” said Melissa Lueke, current TMC Board Chair. “The Trustees are very thankful for the energy and support from all those on campus. We are also excited by the community's response to our new initiatives."

Chuck Scheper, a graduate of TMC and former board member, had this to say: "I love watching the Saints excel in sports but at the core is still a fine liberal arts Catholic education. Plus, there's an opportunity for all students to get engaged in a variety of extracurricular activities."

Armstrong’s latest commitment, to dance in the upcoming Children’s Law Center’s “Dancing with the Stars” event on May 26, is just the latest of his endeavors to engage with the community.  

Since he took over, TMC established a new partnership with St. Elisabeth for an RN to BSN ( Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program.

And back in February, TMC officially announced their Institute for Religious Liberty, the only one of its kind in the country.   

On top of this, they’ve created new activities on campus, such as a new marching band, a growing theatre program, women’s lacrosse, and men’s wrestling.  

These new activities, combined with their more traditional programs, are modernizing the college.  

According to President Armstrong, “You ain’t seen nothin yet! Over the coming years you’re going to see new infrastructure, more international students, innovation from our faculty, and new alumni engagement programs.”

If you try to compliment or congratulate him, Armstrong will quickly remind you that success at TMC is only happening, “because of the terrific TMC students, faculty and staff.” He also recognizes past President’s Cleeves, Lee, and Stallmeyer. “I am standing on their shoulders.”

So here’s the deal: TMC will be celebrating its 50th year in Crestview Hills in 2018. I think it’s a good time to remind ourselves of the critical role TMC plays in our community. As much as we need Northern Kentucky University and Gateway Community & Technical College to succeed, we need Thomas More College.  

I, for one, am excited about their success, and even more excited about the direction they are headed. So if you see someone from Thomas More, give them a pat on the back. It’s not just their women's basketball team being national champs that makes it a special place these days.  

Brent Cooper is president of Covington-based C-Forward.
Photo via TMC Facebook