On July 1, 2013 David A. Armstrong, J.D., was named the 14th president of Thomas More College, a liberal arts college located in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. His prior experience is filled with leadership roles, from vice president and general counsel to development and higher education law and policy at Notre Dame College of Ohio to enrollment, student life and development at Thiel College and Mercyhurst University (his alma mater) in Pennsylvania. Armstrong is passionate about quality Catholic education and has some big plans for Thomas More’s future. He sat down with LEAD Cincinnati to talk about them.
LEAD Cincinnati: Tell us about yourself. Why are you so passionate about Catholic education?
David Armstrong: I grew up in Cleveland where my love of Catholic education began. I had the privilege of attending parochial grade school and high school, and I moved on to earn a Catholic college education at Mercyhurst. My experience has taught me that to most people, "Catholic education" is synonymous with "quality education." There is a long tradition of rigorous curriculum and strong athletic programs at schools like Thomas More. Not unrelated are the Catholic values and principles upheld by these schools. These are just a few of the reasons I have pursued a Catholic education and a professional career in Catholic academics.
LC: What are some of your plans as president?
DA: Oh, I have lots of those! One of the great things about working at a small private college is that, as president, you get to have your hand in a lot of different things if you choose, and I love to be busy. Institutions like this survive because of the people. It starts with quality faculty, staff, and students whose passion for our mission shines brightly. Our educational mission is at the heart of what we do each day: to educate people in the Catholic tradition with integrity, for their whole life. When making plans for growth and change, you could focus on a variety of areas, but I choose to focus on people—specifically our students and their experience. I want to increase enrollment by developing new programs and initiatives to improve student life. At Notre Dame College, I helped to more than double the student population in only six years.
Of course, doing all this takes money as well. At both Notre Dame College and Mercyhurst University, I secured the largest gifts in the schools’ histories because, the truth is, people stand behind the Catholic tradition and are generous when it comes to supporting a quality, values-based institution. That said, I am passionate about giving. Private Catholic colleges like ours are kept alive by the generosity of donors, which is why that is a major area of focus for me. I think we’ll have success in fundraising if we show our region the passion behind our brand, reinforce our mission-centered message and consistently share information about our new programs and offerings.
LC: What are some of the ways you plan to increase enrollment?
DA: There are several ways to do this: programs, raw recruiting and financial aid leveraging. First of all, we are expanding online course offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of students, specifically our adult market. We have an excellent brand name in TAP, or the Thomas More Accelerated Program. Right now, the majority of our programs are face-to-face, but we are expanding our course offerings to improve accessibility by changing our delivery. We will do that while still upholding quality academic standards and providing as many opportunities as possible to our online students.
Under the academic umbrella, we are starting a new athletic training program within our science department. Another goal is to expand co-curricular programs, and we are excited to be starting a marching band. Women’s lacrosse will be another new offering for student athletes, since extra-curricular programs play a vital role in enhancing educational and social experiences for our students.
LC: What do you love most about Thomas More?
DA: I love its strong Catholic tradition. Thomas More College is one of only 10 diocesan colleges in the country, and it continues to grow and expand on the traditions that have made it a top-tier regional college. An education here is distinctive and transformative. Thomas More’s campus boasts so many rich treasures and traditions, from our new Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel to our campus dog, Tommy. I have grown to love these special things that make Thomas More College unique. Our faculty, staff and students take pride in them as well. Above all else, Thomas More has never forsaken its commitment to provide a values-based education to its students, and that is my passion.
Thomas More College is located at 333 Thomas More Parkway, Crestview Hills, KY 41017. You can reach them at 859.341.5800 or visit their website at www.thomasmore.edu.