WMU News

New aviation dean named; Thompson to be graduate dean

June 25, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The Western Michigan University Board of Trustees approved the appointments June 25 of Dr. James E. Crehan as dean of the College of Aviation and Dr. Donald E. Thompson as vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College.

Crehan is currently an associate professor and chairperson of the Aviation Technology Division at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. His appointment as the first dean of the College of Aviation and a professor of aviation with tenure is effective Sept. 1. The college was created by Trustees in January when they agreed to elevate the School of Aviation Sciences to the level of college.

Crehan enjoyed a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force before he entered academic life, teaching aviation first at Southern Illinois University from 1985 to 1988. He served as an associate professor and chairperson of the Department of Aerospace Technology at Indiana State University from 1988 to 1990 and an associate professor of aviation at the University of Nebraska's Aviation Institute in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service from 1990 to 1996.

Crehan is a past president of the University Aviation Association and currently serves on that organization's board of trustees. He has published and presented widely on such topics as human factors and training and aviation education and he has been the principal investigator on a number of state and federal grant projects.

Crehan earned a bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University and master's degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School and from Central Michigan University. He is completing a doctoral degree from SIU.

Thompson, vice president of research since 1989, will add the duties of Graduate College dean to his responsibilities, effective July 1. His new position was created as a result of WMU President Elson S. Floyd's decision to organizationally and administratively combine both functions. The position of dean of the Graduate College has been held since 1997 by Dr. Shirley Clay Scott, whose retirement was approved by the board June 25.

"Combining the Graduate College with Research and Sponsored Programs will create synergy between two vitally important and strategic academic enterprises within our University," Floyd said in a memo to administrators and members of the faculty June 24. "Reinforcing the natural relationship between graduate education and research is not so much a reflection of where we are now, but signals where we must go in the future."

A search for a senior associate dean of the Graduate College will be launched, Floyd said, and that person and Thompson will both be members of the Academic Deans Council.

Thompson first came to the University in 1985 as associate dean of the Graduate College and director of research and sponsored programs. In 1986 he became the chief research officer. He assumed the role of vice president for research in 1989 and in 1995-96, he served as interim dean of the College of Education as well.

Under his tenure, the University's external research funding has soared from $4.2 million in the 1985-86 fiscal year to more than $31 million last year. This fiscal year's grant total currently stands at $77.3 million.

Thompson holds three degrees from WMU, including a bachelor's degree in English and master's and doctoral degrees in educational leadership. Between 1966 and 1971, he was a teacher and administrator in the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

The Kalamazoo native spent 13 years in a joint appointment at the Ann Arbor and Flint campuses of the University of Michigan, working and teaching in the areas of education and urban studies. He also served as director of bilingual education programs for U. of M. and was director of the Project for Urban and Regional Affairs at the U. of M., Flint, before making the move to WMU.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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