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Veteran fundraiser to lead development, alumni relations

Aug. 26, 2010

KALAMAZOO--James S. Thomas, a professional with a track record of fundraising success in higher education, has been named Western Michigan University's new vice president for development and alumni relations.

Photo of James S. Thomas. Thomas, whose appointment was made pending approval by the WMU Board of Trustees, will take the leadership role at the University effective Oct. 5. He was selected following a nationwide search and is coming to WMU from the University of Michigan, where he is associate vice president of medical development and alumni relations.

"Jim Thomas emerged as a perfect match for Western Michigan University during our search," said WMU President John M. Dunn in announcing the appointment. "He is passionate about the state of Michigan and its future and enthusiastic about the opportunity to join our University community. He has the strategic skills and commitment to community engagement that will enable us to accomplish some of the exciting goals we have set."

Thomas' new appointment also includes the role of executive director of the Western Michigan University Foundation, a private, not-for-profit corporation through which all gifts to the University are received.

Thomas says the University's commitment to those it serves and the community's close ties to the campus are among the key factors that attracted him to WMU.

"Western Michigan is a great university with a truly remarkable and generous base of people who support and care deeply about it," Thomas says. "I know a bit about this community already and am looking forward to getting to know it better. This is a phenomenal opportunity to serve and perhaps become a catalyst to strengthen and build new connections between a wonderful product--WMU--and that engaged community."

Thomas has been at the U of M for 15 years, beginning his work in Ann Arbor as a regional development director. He was named to his current role 11 years ago. As chief development officer for the University of Michigan Health System, he revitalized the development and alumni efforts of the system and was an integral part of planning and execution for the Michigan Difference Campaign, which raised $3.2 billion for that university.

Prior to joining the U of M staff, Thomas worked briefly as executive director of the Greater Lansing Catholic Education Foundation and before that, served for five years as director of development for Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary. In the latter position, he helped build that organization's successful development and alumni outreach programs.

Thomas earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University in 1985 and a master's degree in theological studies from St. John's Provincial Seminary in 1988.

He replaces Bud Bender as WMU's chief development officer. Bender, who led the University's successful centennial capital campaign earlier in this decade, is retiring this month after nearly 14 years of service to WMU.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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Western Michigan University
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