A missed opportunity to attend Morehouse College as a student makes the reality of serving as the college’s 12th president much sweeter. Dr. David A. Thomas started his dream job at the all-male HBCU on Tuesday.
“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, chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Thomas, 61, is the cornerstone of the college’s attempt to turn the page after the dismissal in April of former president John S. Wilson two months before his contract expired. Tragically, the interim president, William Taggart, died in June from an aneurysm. Thomas has the twin tasks of increasing the graduation rate and raising funds at a time when most HBCUs are struggling to reach those goals. He wants to boost enrollment from 2,200 students to 2,500, provide more scholarships and find solutions to improving outcomes for Black men, Thomas told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Much has been made of Thomas being the school’s first president since Benjamin E. Mays in the 1940s to never attend Morehouse as a student. Morehouse was Thomas’ first choice, but he didn’t receive any financial aid. Consequently, he attended Yale University, which offered him a scholarship and earned an undergraduate degree in administrative sciences. Thomas also earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in organizational psychology from Yale, as well as a second master’s degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University.
Thomas, who grew up in a working-class household, was part of the first generation in his family to attend college. “I understand the transformative power of higher education for people of color,” he said. “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.”
He previously served as dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business from 2011 to 2016, where he raised $130 million and increased enrollment of women and minority students. In fact, researching and promoting diversity in the workplace has been one of his key contributions.