You'll find that Brookhaven College's new president, Dr. Thom D. Chesney, is a "perennial optimist" with a rather upbeat motto.
"I often say that it's not a good day until you've had a good laugh," he told the audience during his formal introduction and welcome reception on June 30.
With 16 years of professional academic experience under his belt, Dr. Chesney has an impressive resume, working most recently with the University of Texas at Dallas as associate provost for student success and associate professor of arts and humanities. He also has served as district vice president for academic affairs, and provost and district dean of communications and humanities at Collin County Community College District; assistant dean of integrated studies at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa.; and director of freshman advising/freshman seminar and full-time faculty at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.
His credentials include a doctorate in English literature from Florida State University, a master's degree in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a bachelor's degree in Spanish and business from Washington University in St. Louis.
Dr. Chesney has gained decades of experience in academia, dating back to his time as an undergraduate. Highly involved in track and student organizations, particularly those that focus on helping other students, he has long known the importance of collaboration, he said.
So if you ever question whether or not to approach him, know that his door is always open.
"I am certainly open to taking questions and engaging in scheduled and unscheduled dialogues alike," he said. "A college is a seat of higher learning, inquiry and thought. A president should cultivate and sustain that; I certainly intend to do so."
Music is important to him. His wife, Noelle, has a doctorate in music from Ohio State University and "sings everything from opera to Broadway to art song." If you raided Dr. Chesney's iPod, you'd find an eclectic sampling of songs and artists, including classical and Broadway - a music choice influenced by his wife, he admits - and a range of decade music from the '50s, '60s and '80s - big emphasis on the '80s.
"I was listening to Tom Petty on my way to the college this morning, but I also really like Depeche Mode," he said.
He considers himself an omnivore - don't be surprised if you see him out-and-about at a restaurant that serves Asian-inspired, Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisines, his favorite types of food. But when cooking up a storm at home, he goes for comfort foods, he said.
Of course, all the comfort food in the world won't comfort him on the job. To calm the butterflies, he has taken advice from friends and co-workers. His favorite nugget of wisdom so far: "Remember to breathe."
The leadership role is a natural fit for him, so breathing shouldn't be an issue. Everything from athletics to teaching to administration has prepared him for his presidency, he said.
His previous experience with student services and instruction has given him a respect for those roles and the people who fill them. Plus, he hopes that his positive outlook can have a lasting effect on the college community - "cynics and naysayers, beware," he joked.
"I wear my college proudly, and I am open-minded, accessible and a constant observer," Chesney said. "I don't claim to be the smartest person in the room, but I am generally one of the better synthesizers and investigators - so to speak."
With just a few days on the job, the start of the semester in a few days and enrollment growth on track to top 20 percent for this fall, Chesney may well need his sense of humor, some of that comfort food and a happy tune as he tackles his newest leadership role.