Originally Posted Online: Feb. 02, 2013, 5:31 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 03, 2013, 11:29 am

Black Hawk College president praised for work in his first year

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By Anthony Watt, awatt@qconline.com

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Photo: Paul Colletti
Black Hawk President Dr. Thomas Baynum sits in the college's library in Moline on Wednesday, January 23, 2013.

After just over a year in office, the president of Black Hawk College is getting high marks from the campus community and Quad-Cities at large.

Dr. Thomas B. Baynum, who has an educational doctorate, became president of Black Hawk in late 2011. Before that, he was president of Coastal Bend College in Beeville, Texas.

Touted as some of Dr. Baynum's strengths are his ability to communicate well with Black Hawk students and employees, his willingness to address day-to-day operations of a college and dealings with legislators, and his ability to adjust.

"He goes above and beyond for explanations" to the college board, board chairman Evelyn Phillips said. He also has regular lunch meetings with faculty and staff, she said.

Joan Eastlund, a political science professor at Black Hawk, said that when employee issues come up, Dr. Baynum, as the administration's representative, approaches them with an open mind.

He treats those issues as problems to be solved by the parties involved rather than battles to be won, said Ms. Eastlund, who also heads the Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 1836 — the bargaining unit that represents about 200 Black Hawk employees.

"He's very open to listening," she said.

Not long after becoming president, Dr. Baynum began holding events to meet students and let them ask questions. When the college decided to raise tuition and fees, he held forums to discuss the changes with students.

"In my opinion, he's clearly one of the most accessible presidents we've had at this institution," Betsey Morthland, the school's interim dean of health sciences, said.

He also is adaptable, officials said.

When he arrived, he immediately had to deal with the retirement of dozens of employees and overdue state funding, Ms. Morthland said.

Black Hawk recently completed its Sustainable Technologies Building, soon will finish a remodel of Building 1, and is planning a building for health sciences and another for student housing.

Ms. Phillips said Dr. Baynum has effectively juggled day-to-day operations at the college while still doing outreach — meeting mayors, legislators and other members of the community.

"He's accomplished an awful lot in a year," she said.

East Moline Mayor John Thodos said Dr. Baynum likely will be one of the presidents known for helping Black Hawk move forward."I would give him a sound 'A.' He has engaged the community."

Dr. Baynum said Wednesday that he is settling in well, and intends to stay. "I love it here. It has been a great experience."

He said Black Hawk's greatest accomplishment so far is the capital plan that is under way. He cites the communications mechanisms he's helped put in place as one of his best accomplishments.

He said that includes a regular newsletter at the school and electronic posting of documents such as meeting minutes and the checks that Black Hawk writes.

Dr. Baynum said his greatest challenge has been coping with gaps caused by the retirements of faculty and staff, with about seven centuries of experience between them. "Replacing those people has been a challenge."

One thing he said has surprised him about Black Hawk and the Quad-Cities is how much they intertwine. When he's in the community, he said it's not unusual to hear from people who started their college years at Black Hawk or who have had some type of experience with the college.

"That always impresses me."