After declining a second term as dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business last year, David Thomas has turned up elsewhere in academia. Morehouse College, the world’s only historically black college for men, announced today (Oct. 16) that Thomas will be its next president.
The former Harvard Business School professor was purposely vague about why he stepped down after a five-year stint at Georgetown on Aug. 1 of last year. At the time, Thomas said, he would take a one-year sabbatical and return to the HBS faculty. But three months before his decision to refuse a second term, the board of trustees at Morehouse voted to end then-President John S. Wilson’s contract two months before it expired.
Thomas will succeed interim President Harold Martin Jr., then the board’s secretary, who has led the college for the past 16 months. The school announced a national search in April of this year assisted by Issacson Miller, an executive search firm specializing in higher education. The search committee reviewed the profiles of more than 100 executives for the role, including several sitting college presidents.
SEARCH COMMITTEE GAVE THOMAS THE JOB FOR HIS “VISIONARY LEADERSHIP AT GEORGETOWN MCDONOUGH’
As dean of Georgetown McDonough from 2011 to 2016, Thomas led the redesign of the MBA curriculum, the launch of the school’s first online degree program, and a $130 million capital campaign. Morehouse said he won the job 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, in a statement. “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 guidance of Interim President Martin until the end of the calendar year.
MORE HOUSE NAMES THREE PRIORITIES FOR ITS NEW PRESIDENT
“I am humbled and honored to be appointed as the next President of Morehouse College,” added Thomas in a statement. “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.”
In the announcement by Morehouse, 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.”
The school identified three priorities for Thomas. They include:
- The launching of a major capital campaign to increase funds for student scholarships, among other needs.
- A 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.
- An expansion of Morehouse’s development of future leaders who are intellectual, spiritually-minded, and capable of creating change that makes the world more just.
FIRST PRESIDENT IN 50 YEARS WHO DID NOT GRADUATE FROM MOREHOUSE
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.”
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.”