Dr. Martin Abraham acknowledged he was nervous before Thursday's meeting of the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees (BoT). "It's a big decision, a lot riding on it both for me and the university – and the community too, quite frankly," he said.
It turned out he had nothing to worry about. After a two-and-a-half hour closed door meeting, the BoT unanimously agreed to appoint Abraham to serve as interim WIU president through June 30, 2020 while the board conducts a search for the university’s next president.
Abraham was hired to serve as provost beginning July 1, 2019. But Dr. Jack Thomas stepped down as president at the end of June so Abraham agreed to fill the short-term role of acting president.
Now he will continue as the university’s top administrator, which he said will bring continuity as Western addresses a multitude of challenges.
“We’re still working on enrollment issues, and working with the community to build strong community relations. (We will) continue to do a lot of the things that I’ve pushed as an acting president,” he said.
Abraham will be paid $24,500 per month.
Board Chairperson Polly Radosh praised the job Abraham has done during his first few months at Western.
“He has great support from the university community. He’s done a tremendous job on outreach and working with donors and we felt he’s the best person for the job at this point,” she said.
The support for Abraham was evident during the public comments portion of the board meeting, which took place before trustees voted on the matter. 10 of the 12 speakers addressed the interim president position and all 10 of those people spoke in favor of appointing Abraham.
“People in the community have been telling me how much it means to see him at a wide variety of events. They say he is welcoming, engaged, and open, “ said Marjorie Allison, professor of English, in remarks representative of what speakers had to say about Abraham. “Western Illinois University deserves a president who has been fully vetted in a national search, such as the one Dr. Abraham has just been through for the provost search. We need a leader with a new direction and without the baggage of the past.”
Billy Clow, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, will continue to serve as WIU’s interim provost.