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Thomas W. Cole

Thomas Winston Cole, Jr. was born the second of four children to Eva and Thomas W. Cole, Sr. on January 11, 1941, in Vernon, Texas. The Cole family moved to Marshall, Texas, where his father was appointed President of Wiley College from 1958 to 1971. During his childhood, Cole attended public school and was an active Eagle Scout.

Cole graduated from high school in 1958 and attended Wiley College where he was active in the Kappa Chi and Alpha Kappa Mu Honor societies. Graduating summa cum laude from Wiley College in 1961, Cole received his B.S. degree and the Southern Regional Fellowship. Cole attended the University of Chicago and earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1966; it was here that he studied with P.E. Eaton and they became the first chemists to synthesize the Cubane Carbon Skeleton System.

Cole began his professional career in 1966 as an assistant professor at the Atlanta University Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. During his tenure, Cole would serve as chairman of the department of chemistry between 1970 and 1979; the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Chemistry between 1969 and 1979; Chair of the Atlanta University Center chemistry department; and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs between 1979 and 1982. Cole also worked as a research scientist for Procter & Gamble and the Celanese Fiber Company. From 1982 to 1986, Cole was president of West Virginia State College. Following his presidency, Cole was appointed Chancellor of the West Virginia Board of Regents, one of four African Americans to head a state system of public higher education.

Cole returned to Atlanta to accept a position as president of Clark College in 1988, and led the oversight and planning for the consolidation of Clark College and Atlanta University. Cole served simultaneously as president of both institutions during the 1988-1989 academic years until his appointment as President of Clark Atlanta University in 1989. Cole continued to serve as president until 2002.

After retirement, Cole lived in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Brenda.

Accession Number

A2006.173

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/15/2006

Last Name

Cole

Maker Category
Middle Name

W.

Schools

Wiley College

University of Chicago

H.B. Pemberton High School

First Name

Thomas

Birth City, State, Country

Vernon

HM ID

COL11

Favorite Season

None

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

It Is Amazing What You Can Accomplish If It Doesn't Matter Who Gets The Credit.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

1/11/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

University president and chemistry professor Thomas W. Cole (1941 - ) was the president of Clark Atlanta University, whose formation from Clark and Atlanta Universities he oversaw. He was also president of West Virginia State College, Chancellor of the West Virginia Board of Regents, and a professor of chemistry at the former Atlanta University.

Employment

Atlanta University

West Virginia State College

West Virginia Board of Regents

Clark Atlanta University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Thomas W. Cole's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Thomas W. Cole lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Thomas W. Cole remembers his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Thomas W. Cole describes his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Thomas W. Cole describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Thomas W. Cole describes his father, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Thomas W. Cole describes his father, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Thomas W. Cole lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Thomas W. Cole describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Thomas W. Cole explains his family's move to Bryan, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Thomas W. Cole remembers Washington Elementary School in Bryan, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Thomas W. Cole remembers his elementary school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Thomas W. Cole describes his father's approach to civil rights

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Thomas W. Cole remembers Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Thomas W. Cole recalls his high school band

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Thomas W. Cole remembers H.B. Pemberton High School in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Thomas W. Cole recalls his participation in the Boy Scouts

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Thomas W. Cole remembers segregation in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Thomas W. Cole recalls his decision to attend Wiley College in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Thomas W. Cole remembers pledging Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Thomas W. Cole recalls the student protests at Wiley College

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Thomas W. Cole remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Thomas W. Cole recalls leaving the University of Texas in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Thomas W. Cole describes his studies at the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Thomas W. Cole explains the significance of his cubane research

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Thomas W. Cole remembers President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Thomas W. Cole remembers teaching at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Thomas W. Cole remembers working for Procter and Gamble Company

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Thomas W. Cole recalls becoming the Fuller E. Callaway Professor at Atlanta University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Thomas W. Cole describes his students at Atlanta University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Thomas W. Cole remembers the Vietnam War draft

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Thomas W. Cole remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Thomas W. Cole remembers working with the Atlanta Public Schools

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Thomas W. Cole recalls his sabbatical at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Thomas W. Cole remembers working for Celanese Fibers Company

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Thomas W. Cole recalls teaching at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Thomas W. Cole remembers his National Science Foundation grant

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Thomas W. Cole describes his programs in the Atlanta Public Schools

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Thomas W. Cole recalls serving as provost of Atlanta University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Thomas W. Cole recalls his presidency of West Virginia State College in Institute, West Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Thomas W. Cole remembers his delegation to China

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Thomas W. Cole recalls his chancellorship of the West Virginia Board of Regents

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Thomas W. Cole remembers his consideration as a gubernatorial candidate

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Thomas W. Cole recalls his decision to leave West Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Thomas W. Cole recalls consolidating Clark College and Atlanta University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Thomas W. Cole describes the details of the Clark Atlanta University merger

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Thomas W. Cole remembers funding changes at Clark Atlanta University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Thomas W. Cole describes his international outreach for Clark Atlanta University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Thomas W. Cole talks about Great Schools Atlanta

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Thomas W. Cole describes Project Kaleidoscope

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Thomas W. Cole reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Thomas W. Cole describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Thomas W. Cole describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Thomas W. Cole reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

10$1

DATitle
Thomas W. Cole remembers meeting his wife
Thomas W. Cole recalls consolidating Clark College and Atlanta University
Transcript
You also said that you met your wife on the campus [of Wiley College, Marshall, Texas]?$$No, I met my wife in high school [H.B. Pemberton High School, Marshall, Texas].$$Oh, you met her in high school?$$I met my wife in high school.$$Oh, okay.$$It's an interesting story. In our day the teachers from East Texas, which is that part of Texas I grew up in and Marshall [Texas] is in, would meet for the annual conference of black teachers. And one of the highlights of the meeting would be an all-star band. And they would invite band members from all of the high schools, and two from this school, three from this, and four from this and then they would, there would be a special director either from one of the colleges who would come in and direct us into performing during the last evening of the, of their conference. And so, my wife played clarinet as well, and so at that time, that's where I met. She and I sat next to each other and so what was a relationship that started out in high school just developed over time. She was two years behind me and so every, every, Easter break when we would meet, I would look forward to that 'cause I'd get a chance to see her. But that's how we met, she lived in a different city and so--and she went to a different college, but we maintained connections and eventually, eventually married in 1964.$$What is your wife's name?$$Her name is Brenda [HistoryMaker Brenda H. Cole].$$And what school did she go to?$$She went to Spelman [Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia].$So what happened if you would come and be president of Clark [Clark College; Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia]?$$Well, y- you know I really thought after considering the pros and cons that this the job that I was called to do. I had been at Atlanta University [Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia], Clark College was a United Methodist religious school, I'm a lifelong United Methodist. Having been in the AUC Center [Atlanta University Center; Atlanta University Center Consortium, Atlanta, Georgia], I knew half of the faculty at Clark College anyway and I knew them at Atlanta University. I had been president of a school, chancellor of a system, what better opportunity now to take all of that and use it to, to create a new university. And that's in fact how we saw it. Though we knew that Atlanta University needed something, an infusion of, of money or restructuring to, to survive, Clark College was, was constricted in terms of its development. It was landlocked, couldn't do anything really beyond what it was doing. Both schools were without a president so if there was a time to bring them together this was it. The only time. And after having lost a lot of sleep and deliberated and consulted with a lot of people, I finally decided in September of '87 [1987] to, to accept the assignment. Because, if it's gonna happen, I thought it was a, a situation whose time had come. There had been a lot of prior attempts to bring the schools in the Atlanta University Center together, none of them had been successful. In fact, the word was you are not gonna be able to do, and so, being a known entity to Atlanta University and being--having been president of Clark College at the time meant I could bring a little bit of both to the conversation that would, that would eventually lead to consolidation. And so for four months I commuted from West Virginia to Atlanta [Georgia] meeting privately with the board members to orchestrate, if you will, to talk about how do you pull this off. And so by December--between September and December then word was already out that I was coming as president of Clark College and that there is talk--they had a press conference and said that they were talking about bringing the schools together, but really between September and October we had worked it out. The chairs of both boards wanted to do it and so it was really just a matter now of dotting the I's and crossing the Ts and making sure that people who needed to know knew. So they created committees and the usual process like that and deliberated on the issues, the academic issues, the financial issues, the alumni issues, the student issues, and all that. And between January and March of 1988, we decided, or the committee actually decided with my--in--I was really kind of like the, the staff person to the committee. The committee decided on a name, decided on a mascot, decided on, on a motto, decided on all of that because the atmosphere among the members of the committee representing both schools was we wanna make this work. The question is how do we make it work? We know who the president's gonna be so that's a non-issue. Getting the name may be an issue, some of the--where people will end up might be an issue but we'll just have to work that out. And between--in that three-month period they had decided, went public.