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York College Celebrates the Inauguration of its Fifth President, Dr. Thomas D. Burns

April 15, 2024
The new president speaking at inauguruation

In front of an audience of students, faculty, staff, and alumni from York College, family members, and dignitaries from 20 colleges and universities, Dr. Thomas Burns was inaugurated as the fifth president of York College of Pennsylvania on April 13.

President Burns was introduced by Dr. Bob Fisher, President Emeritus of Belmont University, who recognized the 25 audience members from Belmont. “I think that tells you a lot about Thomas Burns,” he said. 

After listing several significant accomplishments achieved at Belmont during President Burns’ 11-year tenure there, Dr. Fisher said, “What I wanted you to hear and what I hope that you can sense, is that you have a leader who now brings that same energy, that same vision, and that same heart for the students and the faculty in this community [Belmont University] to York College.”

President Fisher continued by indicating that, according to Lou Holtz, there are three things that you should ask about your leader. “I think you should ask those three things about Thomas Burns,” he said. “With this great crowd of witnesses here today from Belmont who know the truth about Thomas Burns, let me answer those questions. 

“Can you trust Thomas Burns? I trusted Thomas Burns with my professional life I don’t know how many times . . . . He never, never once proved himself anything but totally trustworthy. He’s a man of integrity, and you can trust him.

“Is Thomas Burns committed to excellence? Well, some of you are already working with him, and I bet those of you who are know that he is relentless and unwavering in his commitment to excellence and to a belief that when we achieve something that’s really good, that’s just a foundation to keep building on to become great.

“Does he care about you? I close this introduction with a story, to answer this question. Whenever I hired a senior leader in my experience, I would always visit their home campus and met and talk to the people that they were working with at that time. So, on my arrival to the Millersville campus, the very first person I encountered was an administrative person who worked with Thomas. When I introduced myself – I’m Bob Fisher from Belmont – I saw the tears well up in her eyes, and she said, ‘Please don’t take him away from us. He’s been so good to us. Well, what she didn’t realize is that that closed the deal for me.”

President Burns then addressed the audience, asking for their patience as he shared a long list of thank yous. Among those he thanked were York College students, faculty, staff, and alumni. “Thank you for the wonderful week full of living and learning together, and a whole lot of fun. I continue to be so grateful for all that you do to me YCP, and me, proud.” And he thanked the College’s trustees for “your confidence in selecting me to serve York College. I am humbled by the trust you have placed in me and assure you that I will do all that I can to help YCP become more robust and vibrant.”

President Burns shared what he refers to as YCPs – York College Points of Pride – citing them as “the foundation for my presidency – a focus on what makes a York College education the best educational choice for many families.

“The York College student experience is Personal. We are a small enough institution that we will know each of our students by name and we know their story. We are intently focused on helping students meet their goals, and then dream a bit bigger – to see the world differently than they saw it before they arrived on our campus.

“The York College education is Practical and prepares students be a Professional. We are focused on providing an experiential education that is full of hands-on, real-world experiences that helps students take the knowledge they gain in the classroom and transfer it into the work they do to make a living.  

“The York College experience helps our students be Persistent. We expect our students to work hard, to always give their best effort, and always try to learn and achieve more. We know that the commitment to their educational journey now creates the foundation for lifelong learning and long-term success! 

“The York College experience is about helping students find their Purpose. We know that our students, and their parents, want to make sure that they are prepared for life after college. Part of that is finding a job or heading to graduate school (or both), but the other part is preparing our graduates to be engaged citizen leaders. 

President Burns went on to share his vision of the future of York College, focusing on creating partnerships where both parties benefit to enhance experiential learning, embedding experiential learning in the fabric of every major and program, collaborating to ensure the College’s educational mission can serve and support every industry in York County, supporting civic dialog and civil discourse, growing degree attainment in York County through new academic programs, and enhancing the campus for the good of students. 

“All this without losing sight of who York College is and has been – connecting our past and present to the future in responsible and engaging fashion,” he said. 

He ended his inaugural address with a call to action for those in the audience. “Each of you has come here because you are connected to York College – whether as a student, an alum, a faculty member, a staff member, a community member, a donor, or a friend.  As I close, I invite you to think about how you can help me, our faculty, our staff, and our students thrive by bringing your unique gifts and talents to support the plans and opportunities for the future of York College. As president, I want you to know that YCP is open to your thoughts and ideas, we are open to partnerships and collaborations that will enhance student learning, create new engagements for our students, and will contribute to the success of all the YCs – the College, the City, and the County.”