Fort Lewis taps first female president

The Board of Trustees for Fort Lewis College has selected the first woman president to lead the college in its 99-year history. Dene Kay Thomas, currently president of Idaho’s Lewis-Clark State College, will begin her duties as the eighth president of Fort Lewis on July 1.

“Dr. Thomas has a breadth of skills that has made her an effective president,” said Richard Ballantine, chair of the Board of Trustees. “Fort Lewis College will benefit from her knowledge of the academy and how to lead it and from her external experiences that will give the college the credibility and the visibility that it deserves..”    

Thomas embarked upon her professional academic career as a single mother at the age of 30, when she pursued a bachelor’s degree in English from Southwest Minnesota State University. She eventually earned her doctorate in English at the University of Minnesota. Thomas went on to teach writing at the University of Idaho, where she was an associate professor before undertaking several administrative positions on campus, including vice provost of academic affairs. She became president of Lewis-Clark State in 2001.

During her tenure at the college, Thomas reversed declining enrollment trends, restructured the college to better meet its mission and increased visibility through an energetic public relations initiative. She also worked closely with the Nez Perce tribe at Lewis-Clark State, the only institution that teaches the Nez Perce language.

“I look forward to working at an institution that values liberal arts so highly and is important historically to the education of Native Americans,” Thomas said. “I was inspired by what I saw at Fort Lewis. It is clear to me that education comes alive at Fort Lewis with its beautiful campus in this breathtaking mountain setting. FLC, with a faculty dedicated to excellence in teaching and student research, has such exciting potential. Enormous potential. We will work together and build.”  

Thomas was one of three finalists considered by the Board of Trustees following a search that reviewed more than 110 candidates. All three finalists visited the campus to meet with faculty, staff, administrators, students and community members, many of whom took the opportunity to comment on the candidates during a three-hour public hearing before the board.

“Our three finalists were very strong, with very different backgrounds in higher education,” said Peter Decker, chair of the search committee. “They each had strong support on campus and in the community, an indication that the search process was effective in recruiting compelling candidates committed to the liberal arts and capable of effectively leading Fort Lewis College.”

Thomas will be formally presented to the campus during an April 2 meeting and assume her new duties this summer. “This is a bittersweet transition for me, because Lewis-Clark State has been such a rewarding experience,” Thomas said. “I have been deeply committed to higher education at Lewis-Clark State College for the past nine years, and it will be wrenching to leave. I pledge that same commitment at Fort Lewis College.”

Englehart’s ‘Horizons’ exhibit extended

Stanton Englehart will spend six more months in the Four Corners spotlight. The Anasazi Heritage Center has extended its current exhibition of “Horizons,” a collection of paintings by Englehart, through Oct. 31.

Englehart founded the art department at Fort Lewis College, and retired in 1991 after 30 years on the faculty. Englehart passed away last year at the age of 78.

“Horizons” is the title as well as the theme of the exhibition, which features paintings from the private collection of the Englehart Family Trust. Curated by daughter Sharon Englehart of Mancos, the show focuses on the recurrence of horizons in her father’s work.

 “This collection is about spaces defined by horizons,” Sharon said. “My father loved to play with the visual tension between sky and earth. The infinite quality of the horizon, and the space defined by it, creates calmness. But sometimes a foreboding foreground – forms such as large arches, canyons, and curves – creates uncertainty. To me, the paintings are visual encouragements to move forward in spite of our fears.”

In addition to his art and teaching, Englehart was a dedicated angler and cycled thousands of miles through western Colorado. “He really loved being alive,” said Jules Masterjohn, author of Stanton Englehart: A Life on Canvas. “He was an athlete, a citizen, a teacher, a learner, a fisherman – a Renaissance man. He really was an example of someone who was all there.”

 The Anasazi Heritage Center is located three miles west of Dolores and open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

Wildlife closures remain in effect

Although singletrack is beginning to resurface around downtown Durango, several seasonal wildlife closures remain in effect. Trails on Animas Mountain and Grandview Ridge will continue to be closed until no later than April 15 when higher elevations begin to green up. A wildlife closure prohibiting motorized use on the Mahan area west of Gem Village will remain in place until April 30.

“Early spring is when deer and elk are at their most vulnerable to disturbance from human intrusions, because they’ve found little to eat all winter and had to battle through deep snows,” said Chris Schultz, Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist. “Until the snow melts and vegetation begins to green up at higher elevations, the herds will continue to depend on these lower areas for forage and safety.”

BLM law enforcement officers will continue to patrol these closed areas and will issue federal citations to violators, who risk federal fines. The agency added that many other public lands near Durango are open for recreation, including the Horse Gulch and Raider’s Ridge areas, Fort Lewis College Rim, Overend Mountain Park, and Dalla Mountain Park.

Durangoan wins the duathlon nationals

A local athlete pedaled and ran to the top of the national podium on Saturday. Durango’s Marisa Asplund took top honors in the Duathlon National Championship, held at Alabama’s Oak Mountain State Park.

The duathlon included a 10-kilometer run followed by a 60-kilometer bike race. Asplund won the women’s National Championship in 3:06:05, edging out last year’s winner, Jessica Jacobs, by 52 seconds. “Marisa is so good on the bike and had such a good lead,” Jacobs told theBirmingham News. “I did my best to reel in some time in the run.”

The victory landed Asplund a $1,000 winner’s check as well as a spot on the USA Elite Duathlon World Championship Team.  

– Will Sands