The Wilmington College campus started its day Thursday with news of the passing of its 16th president, Neil Thorburn, who served from 1982 to 1995.
His presidency is remembered for institutional advances in academics, athletics, fundraising, community programming and student recruitment strategies, which included WC’s entrance into the NCAA and its first-ever, maximum 10-year accreditation.
President Jim Reynolds praised Thorburn for his role in the College’s growth in noting that the daily work of a college president is a “mixture of challenges and opportunities.”
“Neil really cared for Wilmington College and guided the College towards the opportunities that were available during his tenure as its 16th president,” he said. “His work was foundational to the success of Wilmington College and we will always be grateful for his leadership during his 13 years as president.”
Upon leaving WC in1995, Thorburn served several colleges and universities, from California to Minnesota, in an interim capacity, as president and vice president for academic affairs. Before coming to Wilmington, he served as vice president for academic affairs at Albion College (Mich.) and held faculty positions at schools in New York and Illinois.
Wilmington College conferred upon him an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at its 2001 Commencement. Upon receiving that honor, Thorburn said, “I’ve had a number of joys in my life and the longest one so far has been 13 years at Wilmington. This is indeed a wonderful place to get an education.”
Survivors include his wife, Sarah, and their children, Rebecca and Peter. Memorial arrangements are pending.