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Morehouse gets new president in David A. Thomas

The Yale graduate discusses his plans for the institution

It takes a special type of person to return to an institution he couldn’t attend 40 years before. For the sake of Morehouse College, hopefully David A. Thomas is that person.

On Monday, the all-male, historically black institution announced that Thomas would be its 12th president. Thomas will be the first non-alumnus president in more than 50 years. After the announcement, the Yale graduate discussed his plans for the future via telephone, most of which revolved around fundraising. Thomas’ motivation, however, was unique:

“I want [Morehouse] to be financially resourced such that there will not be another David Thomas,” he said.

“I applied to Morehouse in 1974 and applied to only one other school. I wanted to go to Morehouse since the time I was 10, and Morehouse admitted me but didn’t give me a scholarship and the other school did.”

For Thomas, not being able to attend the school of his dreams was disappointing at the time, but it’s a critical portion of his resume. Not since Benjamin Elijah Mays has Mother Morehouse been led by a non-alumnus, a challenge that the Kansas City, Missouri, native welcomes.

“I think that the board of trustees voted me president because of my accomplishments, my biography and, you know, how I’ve comported myself in the world are very much consistent with the ideal of the Morehouse man,” Thomas said.

That background is exceptional. A 1978 graduate of Yale University, Thomas went on to receive his doctorate in organizational behavior studies and two master’s degrees: one in organizational behavior and the other in organizational psychology. Before being selected as president, he was the dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, an administrator at Harvard and an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Thomas’ election ends a yearlong struggle within the Morehouse administration that began with dissatisfied alumni and eventually spread throughout the entire institution. While he plans to continue emphasizing the importance of alumni engagement, a plan championed by interim president Harold Martin, Thomas refuses to stop there.

“A number of significant gifts were given not by alumni but by parents of students,” Thomas said. “A great resource is that there are people who are in the community of Morehouse who aren’t necessarily alumni but see themselves as stakeholders in the school.”

While the institution is eager to put the past 12 months of instability behind it, it is important to note that the administration seems to have won back the confidence of the student body. Student Government Association president Kamren Rollins had nothing but good things to say about the president-elect.

“I like that he is the type of leader who asks questions and listens to the feedback of students,” Rollins said via Monday’s press release. “Students are one of the biggest stakeholders in this institution.”

This announcement comes right as the institution gears up for homecoming, with alumni returning to campus to celebrate the institution’s 150th homecoming.

C. Isaiah Smalls, II is a Rhoden Fellow and a graduate of Morehouse College from Lansing, Michigan. He studied Cinema, Television and Emerging Media Studies. He was Editor-in-Chief of The Maroon Tiger.