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NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Black-and-white photograph of Renee Thomas available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096.

May 3, 1996

Purdue selects director for Black Cultural Center

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Renee A. Thomas was named director of Purdue University's Black Cultural Center on Tuesday (4/30) following a national search.

Thomas has been interim director of the center since March 1995, when Antonio Zamora retired.

"We recruited candidates from all across the country, but found the best one right here at Purdue," said Robert L. Mindrum, who as director of the Purdue Memorial Union has administrative responsibility for the Black Cultural Center. "As assistant director since 1990, Ms. Thomas demonstrated her strengths in programming and management. As interim director, she excelled, especially in working with students and staff to develop plans for a new $3 million Black Cultural Center facility."

Thomas has been chairwoman of the committee planning the details for the new building. She also serves on the fund-raising advisory committee, which is working to raise $2 million in gift funds for the project. With nearly 10,000 square feet, the new building at Third and Russell streets will be twice the size of the present one at 315 University St.

"Renee's leadership has been pivotal in the planning, and she has kept her focus despite some unusual distractions during the search," Mindrum said. "Her ability to perform the director's responsibilities at a high level while we were engaged in an intense facilities planning process, the beginnings of a major fund-raising campaign and a national search in which she was a candidate, has impressed everyone who understands the pressures of administration."

Mindrum, who joined the Purdue staff in June 1995, added: "This search was my first at Purdue, and I have never seen a more thorough or inclusive process. A large number of students, faculty and staff were involved, and the administration made a strong commitment to finding the best candidate available. Each of the four finalists for the position was interviewed, not only by the search committee, but also by numerous users of the BCC, and by the president and a panel of vice presidents.

"Although all of the finalists had strong credentials, Renee's experience and her ability to work with others toward common goals made her the clear choice. She understands the role of the Black Cultural Center to reinforce the goals articulated by the university: a welcoming environment for students; meaningful interaction between students and faculty; development of the whole student through a variety of activities; involvement in and support by alumni and friends in the university; and attention to issues that facilitate recruitment and retention of a diverse student body.

"Under her leadership, I believe the BCC will enhance its role as a place where all members of the community can explore, celebrate and share all the best aspects of the black experience in America."

Thomas has been at Purdue since January of 1990 when she became assistant director of the Black Cultural Center.

A native of Cape May Courthouse, N.J. , she received her bachelor's degree in political science from Trenton State College in New Jersey, and her master's in higher education administration-college student personnel from Ohio University. She began her career at Ohio University in 1987 as assistant director for affirmative action, later assuming additional responsibilities as the interim assistant director of student activities for minority programming.

Thomas is a member in several professional associations, including the National Association of Black Culture Centers, the Indiana Coalition of Blacks in Higher Education, the Association of College Unions International, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

She is an advisory board member of the Hanna Community Center in Lafayette and is a member of the Promoting Educational Excellence Through Unity organization.

Her Purdue service includes representing the Housing and Food Service Division on the Administrative and Professional Staff Advisory Council, and serving on the planning committee for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She is also a member of the Council on the Status of Women, the Caucus of Black Faculty and Staff, and serves as a Faculty Fellow at Earhart Hall.


Source: Robert Mindrum, (765) 494-8901; home, (765) 463-2552; Internet,

Writer: Jeanne V. Norberg, (765) 494-2096; home, (765) 449-4986; Internet,

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