President David Thomas Charts Bold, New Future for MorehouseDate Released: January 16, 2018
By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
In his first news conference since becoming the 12th President of Morehouse College, Dr. David A. Thomas charted a bold new future for the institution— setting goals that would make Morehouse a leader among all historically black colleges and universities.
“We just celebrated our 150th anniversary last year,” President Thomas said recently as trustees, faculty members, administrators, alumni and a student beamed behind him. “It’s exciting to come to the College at a moment when now what we have to think about is how we can secure the next 150 years. It will require us to examine all aspects of what we do and to ask the question ‘How can we continue to make a distinctive and unique impact on the world?’ ”
Thomas, who formerly served as dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and was the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, took office on Jan. 1.
Two weeks into his administration, he addressed media in a press conference at Morehouse’s Bank of America Auditorium and outlined several major benchmarks he believes the College should be able to attain.
- Increasing Morehouse’s endowment, which is approximately $140 million, to between $300-$400 million. That would be the largest of all endowments at historically black colleges and universities.
- Doubling alumni giving, which is currently 17 percent, to 34 percent.
- Making sure that the next group of incoming freshmen, who will be the Class of 2022, have a four-year graduation rate of 70 percent. That will be part of Thomas’ vision to “create a culture of completion.”
- Significantly upgrading campus facilities and technology infrastructure and building the “campus of the future.”
Thomas envisions a huge capital campaign to address many of the campus’ needs and plans, including boosting scholarship funding.
“We’re in the process of doing a feasibility study,” Thomas said. “I’m imagining a campaign that would be between $250 and $500 million dollars, which would be the largest campaign in the history of the school and which would be on par with many of the major liberal arts colleges in this country.”
Thomas said social issues are also a focus. He’s already been working with Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell to collaborate on issues involving sexual harassment and Title IX. Morehouse and Spelman are planning training sessions together and a meeting between Title IX staff to begin conversations about making the Atlanta University Center a healthy community.
“That is a community that is defined by respect,” Thomas said. “That’s a community that allows us to address some of the challenges to create a community where people feel safe, where people feel respected, where issues of harassment and assault become non-existent, become immediately addressed, and people feel the integrity of their humanity is safe here at Morehouse.”
Morehouse Student Government Association President Kamren Rollins said students are already excited about Thomas.
“Many students have already made mention to the fact that it’s not odd to see President Thomas walking around campus, in the cafeteria, or just interacting with students— and he’s only been on campus for two weeks,” Rollins said. “We’re delighted to welcome President Thomas into our family.”
Thomas is the first non-Morehouse graduate to lead the College since the revered President Benjamin E. Mays served from 1940-1967. Thomas said he wanted to attend Morehouse as a child, but as the son of working class parents, he couldn’t afford it and took a full scholarship at Yale.
First-generation college students at Morehouse have reached out to Thomas for advice and to share their stories.
“It feels weighty in ways that I didn’t experience at Georgetown,” Thomas said of becoming Morehouse’s President. “I wake up every day and walk outside my house and I see young David Thomases. Already I have young men who stop me on the street and they’ve read my story and they tell me ways in which it reminds me of their story… So, in ways, that’s inspiring, but in ways, that’s daunting.
“People have asked me what it feels like to be named President of Morehouse College,” Thomas said. “My response is that I feel blessed and humbled.”
Last Modified: January 16, 2018, 10:01 AM, by: Synera Shelton