University Creates new General Counsel-human Resources Leadership Position

St. Thomas will create a new position of general counsel and chief human resources officer under a reorganization announced Monday.

The change coincides with a decision by Edna Comedy, associate vice president for human resources since 2004, to leave St. Thomas at the end of the fiscal year (June 30). Comedy is not an attorney and chose to complete her doctorate rather than remain a part of the university’s Human Resources operation under the reorganization.

Edna Comedy

Edna Comedy

“Ever since the School of Law opened there has been a feeling among members of our Board of Trustees that it would make sense for St. Thomas to have its own general counsel’s office,” said Mark Dienhart, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It’s not possible, given our efforts to hold down operating expenses, for that to be a stand-alone position.”

A majority of the university’s legal expenses, which usually run several hundred thousand dollars a year, are related to employment law, Dienhart said, “so it makes the most sense to combine a general counsel’s position with our most senior position in Human Resources. In the process, we expect we will reduce legal expenses associated with usual consulting with area law firms.”

Comedy said she agrees the general counsel position makes sound business sense for St. Thomas, and that the move comes at a good time in her career.

“My plans are to complete my doctorate in educational leadership here at St. Thomas in the School of Education while, at the same time, taking my next career step in human resources,” said Comedy, who has finished her coursework and expects to complete her dissertation during the upcoming year. “I am very proud of the work I have done at St. Thomas and I believe the university has been well-served by the strong HR team I have assembled. A lot of really good people comprise the HR team. I will miss them the most.”

Father Dennis Dease, president, and Dienhart praised Comedy’s leadership, particularly in formulating policies, programs and service delivery systems to help the university achieve its strategic priorities. Another significant contribution of Comedy was establishing the Circle of Engagement, an employee relations program that includes initiatives such as the Leadership Academy, Staff Mentorship Program, Acts of Kindness program and the Employee Suggestions Award Program.

“Edna also worked closely with Mark Vangsgard, our chief financial officer, and me to design and carry out human resources strategies to slow our rising benefits’ expenses,” Dienhart said.

“We’re grateful for Edna’s many contributions and wish her the best,” Dease said. “She has had a distinguished career in human resources, and some organization will be very fortunate to hire her.”

Before joining St. Thomas, Comedy was a co-founder and managing partner of Human Resources Solutions and Services LLC, a Colorado-based consulting firm. She also served as associate vice president for human resources and employee relations at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and as director of employment practices and equal employment opportunity at Syracuse University.

Dienhart said a search committee will be appointed this month and begin work as soon as possible to fill the new position. Planning is underway for a reception for Comedy, and details will be announced soon. “We want to give Edna a fitting sendoff,” Dienhart said.