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WIU's Acting President Talks About His New Role

Rich Egger
WIU Acting President Martin Abraham

Dr. Martin Abraham moved to Macomb a few weeks ago to serve as the new provost at Western Illinois University. But following Dr. Jack Thomas' decision to step down as president,Abraham has been thrust into the role of acting president.

“That came as quite a bit of a shock for me. I was really looking forward to coming here as provost and being able to do some things with the academic programs,” Abraham said during a meeting with local reporters.

“But after I got over that initial revision in my thinking, I became quite excited about the potential.”

He said it will give him an opportunity to grow professionally by becoming engaged with more aspects of the university.

Abraham will serve as acting president until the WIU Board of Trustees appoints a long-term interim president. Billy Clow, Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, will continue to serve as interim provost.

Abraham comes to Western from Youngstown State University, where he was a professor of civil/environmental and chemical engineering. He also served as provost at Youngstown State from 2015 to 2018.

Abraham said Western faces three challenges that are particularly important and that he is addressing immediately:

  • Enrollment. “It’s a full year recruitment cycle. So if we’re not doing some things today, then we’re not going to be addressing those challenges and not able to build ourselves out of those issues and start growing the enrollment as early as 2020.”
  • Rebuild interactions with the community. “I feel like this a strength that Western Illinois has had – the experience that we’re able to give our students working in the community, engaged with the community, engaging community members here on campus, and the faculty and staff here in the community as well. So I’ve spent a lot time the past two weeks out downtown, talking to individuals, being engaged with the community leaders, the business leaders, and trying to encourage them to look at ways we can work together.”
  • Create a welcoming environment for students that they can be successful in. “That’s a welcome environment for all students regardless of their background, regardless of their ethnicity, We want to be a welcoming place where they’re going to feel at home. They’re gonna want to participate with us in the community. The community is going to want to see them. The businesses are going to want them to have opportunities for them to come downtown to participate with them. And we’re working toward doing that. I know I’ve already had some great conversations with the mayor about how we put some of these activities together and really work to become a more welcoming place for all of our students.”

On Wednesday (July 17), Abraham emailed this message:
Dear WIU Faculty & Staff,

I am excited to serve as your acting president. Over the past few weeks, I have had the privilege to meet many of you, along with several community members. There is great positive energy in our community with so many people prepared to support our institution.

I am ready to support you, our students, our alumni and the residents of those communities we serve as we work together to chart our new path forward. The people I've met are optimistic and committed to ensuring a strong future for WIU. This is an exciting time to begin the next chapter in Western Illinois University's history.

In the coming weeks, I will continue to meet with University and community members, as well as city and state leaders. Recruitment, enrollment and retention, diversity and inclusion, and building stronger community relationships are key initiatives, along with ensuring access to the excellent academic programs offered at WIU. Regardless of whatever role the Board ultimately determines I should have at WIU, we will work tirelessly to serve our students and the people of western Illinois, the state and beyond.

Together, we will also reaffirm our University's commitment to social justice, equity and diversity. My expectations are that each one of us play a vital role in ensuring a climate that is respectful, civil and supportive for all students, faculty, staff and guests.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at I look forward to working with all of you as we turn the page together to build this great institution.

Best wishes,

Martin Abraham
Acting President

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the important issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.