The Morehouse College Board of Trustees voted Sunday, October 15, 2017 to name Dr. David A. Thomas as the 12th President of Morehouse College, ushering in a new era of leadership for the 150-year-old historically black institution. Dr. Thomas is the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the former Dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
Thomas’ appointment ends a six-month period of leadership transition at the College that began in April when the Board announced its national search for a new Morehouse President. The Presidential Search Committee, assisted by Issacson Miller recruiters, reviewed the profiles of more than 100 executives for the role, including several sitting college presidents. Thomas was chosen as the top candidate because of his visionary leadership as a business school administrator and his proven track record in fundraising, which includes a capital campaign that raised more than $130 million in five years for Georgetown McDonough.
“Dr. Thomas is a nationally respected business educator and visionary leader with a support network that will bring transformative change to Morehouse College,” said Willie Woods ’85, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “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, expand our academic programs, improve our facilities, and provide more signature opportunities for leadership that make Morehouse Men among the most sought-after graduates in the country.”
Thomas has 30 years of higher education experience. He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior Studies and a Master of Philosophy in Organizational Behavior degree, both from Yale University. He also has a Master of Organizational Psychology degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Administrative Sciences degree from Yale College. Thomas assumes office on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, leaving Morehouse under the experienced guidance of Interim President Harold Martin Jr. ’02 until the end of the calendar year.
“I am humbled and honored to be appointed as the next President of Morehouse College,” said Thomas. “What draws me to Morehouse is that I see a connection between what I value and what this college has always represented —the mission to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service, and to be stewards of black culture and community. There is no place like Morehouse on the planet.”
Priorities of President-Elect Thomas
- Thomas is planning to launch a major capital campaign to increase funds for student scholarships, among other needs.
- He will also focus on making Morehouse a premier institution for research on the black experience, and will work to expand Morehouse’s international outreach, including in its student recruitment and hiring practices.
- Thomas is eager to expand Morehouse’s development of future leaders who are intellectual, spiritually-minded, and capable of creating change that makes the world more just.
Morehouse is the world’s only HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) for men. It has produced four Rhodes Scholars, several college presidents, and leaders in many other fields. According to the National Science Foundation, Morehouse is the nation’s top producer of black males who continue their education and receive doctorates. The National Science Foundation also ranked Morehouse as the No. 1 producer of black men who receive doctorates in education, life and physical sciences, math and computer sciences, psychology and social sciences, as well as humanities and the arts. Morehouse currently has more than 17,000 alumni representing more than 40 states and 14 countries. U.S. News & World Report also consistently ranks Morehouse as one of the nation’s top five HBCUs.
History-Making President: First Non-Alumnus To Be President In 50 Years
Thomas will be the first Morehouse President in 50 years who did not graduate from the College. The last President who was not an alumnus was Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Morehouse’s revered sixth President who mentored Martin Luther King Jr.
“I think the entire Morehouse family will be very excited about the appointment of President-Elect Thomas,” said Dr. Robert M. Franklin, President-Emeritus. “David is deeply committed to educating African American men and to innovative approaches to higher education. He has spent his entire career from Yale to Harvard Business School to Georgetown University preparing for this opportunity. He appreciates the signal honor of being selected as the first non-alumnus Morehouse president since Dr. Benjamin Mays, and we stand ready to support and serve with him.”
Presidential Search Committee Chair Dale Jones noted that Thomas has the endorsement of scores of alumni, faculty, staff, and student representatives who met with him during the interview process. “We were searching for the right leader to set the stage for another 150 years of success at Morehouse,” said Jones ’82. “We vetted many candidates, including outstanding women. What we found in Dr. Thomas was a commitment to excellence and invaluable experience. He’s an exceptional leader and the right individual to lead Morehouse into the future.”
Thomas said he is looking forward to working with the Morehouse community and its many supporters, and is appreciative of the positive feedback he has received about his presidency. “Morehouse was actually where I wanted to go to college from the time I was 10. I got into Morehouse, but I didn’t receive any financial aid. My second-choice school did offer a scholarship, so I enrolled there, but always with a yearning to be at Morehouse,” he said. “As the son of working-class parents who did not attend college, I understand the transformative power of higher education for people of color. I also understand what it means to be a black male in America, and the determination and strength of character that it takes to be successful. I will work tirelessly to help raise the scholarship funds necessary so that no deserving student who wants a Morehouse education is left behind.”
Thomas: National Business Scholar, Author, Leading Expert On Managing Diversity
As Dean of Georgetown McDonough from 2011 to 2016, Thomas led 250 employees and more than 2,000 students through a period of growth, which included the redesign of the MBA curriculum, the launch of the school’s first online degree program, and a $130 million capital campaign. Prior to Georgetown, Thomas served as a professor and administrator at Harvard University—where he returned in 2017—and an assistant professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
In addition to his work as an educator, Thomas serves as a member of the Board of Directors of DTE Energy, the American Red Cross, and the Posse Foundation. He is the recipient of Washington Business Journal’s 2014 “Minority Business Leader of the Year” award and the National Executive Forum’s “Breaking Through: 2020, Beacon Award,” among other honors. Over the past 30 years, he has also worked as a consultant on issues relating to organizational change, and diversity and inclusion for 100 of the Fortune 500 companies as well as major governmental and nonprofit organizations.
Thomas is nationally renowned for his research in managing diversity in the workplace. He has written numerous case studies and academic articles on the subject. He also is the co-author of two related books: “Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America,” which is one of the first in-depth studies to focus on minorities who have made it to the top, and “Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County.”
Morehouse alumni across the nation also are expressing their support for the 12th President of Morehouse College David Thomas:
"David Thomas is an experienced, accomplished and much-admired educator, scholar and administrator. I congratulate the Trustees and the Search Committee for selecting him to be Morehouse's 12th President."
President Emeritus Walter Massey ‘58
“Dr. Mays was the best President that we ever had. He did not go to Morehouse, yet his influence put Morehouse on the map nationally. When I was Chairman of the Board, I did all that I could do to try to get a candidate who could be another Dr. Mays. This is a great opportunity to have someone with Dr. Thomas’ experience bring his outside view to Morehouse.”
Willie “Flash” Davis ’56, Chairman Emeritus, Morehouse College
“I like that he is the type of leader who asks questions and listens to the feedback of students. Students are one of the biggest stakeholders of this institution.”
SGA President Kamren Rollins’18
“Morehouse is fortunate to have found such an exemplary scholar and nationally-renowned leader to serve as the 12th President of the College. Dr. Thomas has the experience and partnerships necessary to make Morehouse one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges.”
Robert C. Davidson Jr. ‘67, Chairman Emeritus, Morehouse College
“I think Dr. David Thomas has demonstrated that he has the passion to lead Morehouse College for the ‘future generations to come.’ In my mind, Dr. Thomas meets and exceeds all of our measured matrices – and even many areas we did not measure or evaluate."
Howard Willis ’76, National Alumni Association President
“Dr. David Thomas is the right leader, at the right time in our College's history. He is competent, seasoned, and current with what our students, faculty, administration, and alumni will need as the College moves forward to compete in this century. It is a blessing to find a man of character with such strong credentials.”
Brian “BK” Edmonds ‘86