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Our Rich History: David A. Armstrong served as Thomas More’s 14th president, exceeded his goals

By David E. Schroeder
Special to NKyTribune

Part 49 of our series, “Retrospect and Vista II”: Thomas More College/University, 1971-2021

The presidency of Sister Margaret Stallmeyer C.D.P. proved to be beneficial for Thomas More. Sister brought financial stability and order to the institution that was essential to the future viability of the college. Stallmeyer made the board aware of her departure effective in 2013. As a result, board chair, Jeanne-Marie Tapke PhD, began organizing a search committee to find the next president of the college. John F. Hodge III was named the search committee chair. The committee included board members, representatives from the Diocese of Covington, faculty, staff and students.

David Armstrong (TMU Archives)

In the early months of 2013, the presidential search committee began their work in earnest. The committee received over sixty applications for the position. After a thorough review of qualifications, the list was narrowed down to nineteen. These nineteen candidates were scrutinized and again narrowed down to eight—each of whom were interviewed in-person. Finally, the committee invited four finalists to tour the campus and receive a comprehensive interview by the committee, faculty, students, and board. Among these finalists was David A. Armstrong JD. Armstrong’s visit to Thomas More was quite successful. His extroverted personality, list of accomplishments in former roles and his understanding of small Catholic liberal arts colleges impressed the board and the committee. On May 20, 2013, it was announced that Armstrong had been selected as the 14th president of Thomas More College, effective July 1 of that year.

At the time of the announcement, Bishop Roger J. Foys, Chancellor of the College, stated: “I am very pleased that David Armstrong has accepted our offer to take up the presidency of Thomas More College. I was very impressed with him during my interview and I have every confidence that he will build on the solid foundation of those who have gone before him, especially that of our most recent president, Sister Margaret Stallmeyer.”

David Armstrong and Garren Colvin (TMU Archives)

Search committee chair, John F. Hodge III, stated, “Dave possesses the experience and skill set to serve successfully as President of Thomas More College. He will bring enthusiasm, passion, and energy to the position. I look forward to him building up what Sister Margaret Stallmeyer has achieved.”

Dave Armstrong came to Thomas More with an impressive resume and a track record of success. Armstrong earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania in Political Science and Accountancy. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Armstrong’s experience was equally as impressive. He began his career as assistant to the prosecutor of the city of Lakewood, Ohio. He then transitioned into the world of education. He returned to his alma mater, Mercyhurst University, as an assistant football coach, director of alumni relations, and planned giving officer among other duties. In 1996, Armstrong was named athletic director at Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Also at Thiel, he held the positions of head football coach, interim dean of enrollment management, and assistant alumni and annual fund director. In 2001, Armstrong was named athletic director at Holy Name High School in Parma, Ohio.

Armstrong proved himself a capable and innovative leader at Notre Dame University in South Euclid, Ohio, a small liberal arts college founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922. He began his career at Notre Dame in 2003 and remained until his appointment at Thomas More. During this time, Armstrong held an ever-increasing level of responsibility. He served as general counsel of the institution, a member of the adjunct faculty, dean of undergraduate admissions, dean of enrollment, and vice president of development.

Initiation into Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. (TMU Archives)

During his time at Notre Dame in Ohio, Armstrong distinguished himself in multiple areas. He was responsible for creating the Finn Center for Adult Programs, established a student success center and academic support center, developed a dual enrollment online program, launched a $10 million campus expansion program, and significantly increased traditional and overall enrollment at the institution. All these accomplishments aligned with the strategic plan that the Thomas More College board of trustees had inaugurated.

At the time of his appointment as president of Thomas More, Armstrong expressed his enthusiasm to get started, “My wife and I could not be more excited to come to this beautiful area and serve such a wonderful Catholic college that has instilled students with a valued-based, liberal arts education since 1921. Thomas More College has delivered a uniquely personal education that prepares students with the integrity and the academic skills to make a direct impact on local, national and global challenges.”

President Armstrong documented his major priorities to the college community in a memo on July 30, 2013. He called for four major areas of concentration:

1. Preserve and strengthen the academic programs of the college;

2. Grow enrollment to thrive in the next decade;

3. Fill the voids in the organizational structure that cause concern and frustration on campus; and

4. Focus on the budget to provide first class services to the college community.

In time, President Armstrong would meet and exceed these goals.

David E. Schroeder is director of the Kenton County Public Library. He is the author of Life Along the Ohio: A Sesquicentennial History of Ludlow, Kentucky (2014), coeditor of Gateway City: Covington, Kentucky, 1815-2015 (2015), and coauthor of Lost Northern Kentucky (2018).

We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our region (Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and along the Ohio River). If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact the editor of “Our Rich History,” Paul A. Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu. Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD is Professor of History and Gender Studies at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) and the author of many books and articles.

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