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The "Crisis of Confidence" series is a multi-year effort by the Tri States Public Radio to document the impact the two-year state budget impasse had on Western Illinois University and the ongoing recovery efforts at WIU. State support for public higher education institutions has been steadily declining in Illinois for more than a decade. But the issue was compounded, during the state's historic two-year budget impasse during Fiscal Years '16 and '17 which left public colleges and universities with little state financial support. At Western Illinois University, that drastic cut in state appropriations resulted in significant budget cuts, employee furloughs, and layoffs.

Governor Removes Two New Members from WIU Board

Photos courtesy of WIU
Jackie Thompson (left) and Nick Padgett

More changes are coming to Western Illinois University's Board of Trustees. Governor J.B. Pritzker has withdrawn the nominations of Nick Padgett and Jackie Thompson.

Little is being said about the decision.

In an emailed statement in response to a query from Tri States Public Radio, a spokesperson for the governor said, “The administration determined it was in the best interest of the WIU community to go a different direction, and we wish both of them well. We expect to name additional appointees shortly.”

TSPR followed up by asking, “Will someone be available soon to answer some questions about this decision?”

To which she replied, “Yes, Nick and Jackie.”

TSPR had already asked Thompson if she had any idea why she was removed from the board. “Not really. No,” she replied.

Other than that, Thompson issued a brief statement:

“It was really an honor to serve my alma mater. I’ve been at Western in many formats since 1970 and I’ll always be a very, very proud Leatherneck. I also want to wish the board the very, very best because they’re going to be moving this university forward and that’s the right direction for Western to go is to move forward. Western has great people. They have great programs. And I think this board can take them forward.”

We have not been able to reach Padgett for a comment.

Thompson and Padgett were appointed to the BoT in late March, when Pritzker named seven new trustees to the eight member board.  The only holdover was the student member Justin Brown.  Student members are chosen by fellow students.

Thompson said she learned about the governor’s decision to remove her from the board Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the board was supposed to meet for its annual retreat. The meeting was called off Thursday morning due to a lack of a quorum, according to a statement from Western.

Among other items, the board was scheduled to consider appointing an interim president. Dr. Jack Thomas stepped down as Western’s president at the end of June.

For now, new provost Martin Abraham will continue to serve as the school’s temporary president.

The BoT is not scheduled to meet again until early October.

Thompson held numerous positions at WIU during a 41-year career at the institution. A biography that has now been removed from the BoT page of Western’s website said Thompson started in a clerical role in 1970. She was named Vice President for Administrative Services in 1997.  She held that position until she retired in 2011.

Padgett grew up in Macomb. He now lives in Chicago. According to a biography that has now been removed from the BoT page on Western’s website, Padgett is the managing director of Frontaura Capital, which he co-founded to invest in stocks in frontier nations such as Vietnam, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka that are not yet classified as emerging markets. 

Rich is TSPR's News Director.