Thomas, whose research focuses on diversity in leadership, said he found the Morehouse position particularly attractive because it presented an opportunity to unify several themes in his own work.
“Higher education, leadership development, trying to understand and create the conditions for positive race relations for the development of leaders regardless of color—those are all themes that have animated my work for 30 years, and here was an institution that I could possibly lead that represents those things,” he said.
Located in Atlanta, Morehouse College is the largest male-only historically black college in the United States. Graduates include Martin Luther King Jr., actor Samuel L. Jackson, and director Spike Lee.
Thomas, a Yale graduate, will be the first non-alumnus Morehouse president in over fifty years. He has previously served as dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, where he oversaw an more than $100 million capital campaign.
Although this presidency will be his first official role at Morehouse, Thomas said he has “always had an attachment and admiration for Morehouse.” He applied to the school in 1974, but was unable to attend for financial reasons.
“Morehouse admitted me, but they didn’t have scholarship money for me, and I got a full scholarship to go to Yale,” he said. “So I went to Yale, but I would have otherwise gone to Morehouse.”
Thomas said this experience has informed one of his major goals for his tenure as president: a capital campaign to expand scholarships.
“We can increase the level of scholarships and defray some of the cost of the Morehouse education…to try and make sure there are no more stories like mine,” he said.
Thomas also plans to hire new faculty, renew the campus infrastructure, and build stronger partnerships with corporations and other organizations.
“Having David at Morehouse will raise the profile of our world-class institution and lead to partnerships that will allow Morehouse to be more competitive for top students…and provide more signature opportunities for leadership that make Morehouse Men among the most sought-after graduates in the country,” Willie Woods, chairman of the Morehouse Board of Trustees, wrote in a press release.
Thomas said he looks forward to the opportunity.
“It’s a real honor to be the person they've entrusted,” he said.
—Staff writer Luke W. Xu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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