The president of a historically American Baptist college in Indiana has been fired after his arrest on suspicion of sex crimes in another state.
Trustees of Franklin College, a liberal-arts school near Indianapolis founded in 1834 as Indiana Baptist Manual-Labor Institute, fired President Thomas Minar over the weekend after learning of his Jan. 6 arrest in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, on suspicion of child sex crimes involving a computer.
The Franklin College board of trustees released a statement saying they were “stunned” by the news. Minar, elected the school’s 16th president in 2015, announced plans in June to step down at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, saying he has “accomplished the things I came here to do” and was “looking forward to my next challenge.”
Minar, who is openly gay and married, was one of the first academics across the country to benefit from the destigmatizing of LGBTQ orientation after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.
Minar, previously a vice president at American University in Washington, D.C., told Inside Higher Education in 2016 that he was passed over by other colleges because he is gay before Franklin College stepped up to embrace his sexual orientation and not see it as a liability.
“It takes guts for a board to go out on a limb and say, ‘Here’s our new president. We think he’s wonderful and extraordinary,’ and to be willing to absorb any blowback that that president is a gay or lesbian,” Minar said in the article profiling several gay and lesbian college presidents reporting increasing acceptance after same-sex marriage became legal.
Franklin College trustees praised Minar’s leadership when he first announced plans to leave the school. After his arrest, however, the board “felt it was essential to act immediately and sever his relationship,” according to a statement shared with media.
“The safety of Franklin students is always our highest priority,” the college said in its statement. “To that end, the college has launched an investigation concerning Dr. Minar’s conduct while president. While there are systems already in place, additional resources will be engaged to continue to provide our students a safe, confidential means to report incidents of inappropriate behavior.”
While not addressing his arrest directly, Minar said in an email to the Indianapolis Business Journal, “I very much regret the circumstances which led the college to terminate our relationship.”
“My years at Franklin have been very rewarding and I am extraordinarily grateful to so many staff and faculty who have worked hard with me to advance the college in these challenging times for higher education,” he said. “I wish nothing but the best for Franklin College and for the people who make it the wonderful institution it has become.”
Minar, who has not been formally charged, was released on $7,500 cash bond Jan. 7 after spending a night in jail. He is due back in court Jan. 27, expecting to face charges including attempted child enticement and exposing a child to harmful materials.
Franklin College is one of 16 colleges and universities across the United States listed as affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA. The American Baptist Churches of Indiana & Kentucky, which sponsored Franklin College a year after its founding as the Indiana Baptist Convention in 1833, is not formally affiliated with the school but has enjoyed a friendly relationship over the years.
“I am deeply saddened by the news of the preliminary charges against Franklin College’s former president and call upon our region to pray for any persons and family members who may have been harmed by his alleged behavior; to affirm the college’s internal investigation; and to support the criminal investigation and ensuing legal process,” Soozi Whitten Ford, executive minister of American Baptist Churches of Indiana & Kentucky, said in an email Jan. 14.