The celebration comes more than 160 years to the date after its founding on November 11, 1861, when the institution first opened its doors, then as Plainfield College, to both men and women among its first class of 40 students.
Today, Dr. Thomas’s leadership marks another first, as she’s both the first woman and person of color to be the college’s president.
More About Dr. Thomas
Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Thomas was raised in a household of educators. She found her way to Chicago for her post-secondary education and made the Windy City her home, teaching at Loyola University, which became a steppingstone for leadership. Her most recent role was executive vice president and provost at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“We need to open our doors wide so that we can go out as a community to serve,” said Dr. Thomas. “We should be sending forth graduates who are curious, engaged, ethical, and purposeful citizens and leaders in local, national, and global contexts.”
Leading the future of North Central College
Speaking directly to the students, Dr. Thomas told them her door is always open and she wants to hear and learn from them. She believes her leadership is only strong when the campus lives its mission together as a diverse community of learners.
“I hear your desire to be changemakers. I know that you will likely lead us in our efforts to continue to grow in diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice,” she said. “I know that you are aware of the urgency of your leadership and the importance of the influence you will have.”
To help illustrate Dr. Thomas’ strong connection to the students, chairwoman of the board Holly Humphrey shared a story from Dr. Thomas’ Instagram account.
“While I love seeing the happiness illustrated in these posts, one of the posts that spoke to her demeanor and disposition came from a post on September 25th with a picture of a rainbow,” said Humphrey. “She captioned [it], ‘Good morning, Cardinal Family. Lizzie and I were greeted by a beautiful rainbow this morning, a sure sign it’s going to be a great day. Make the most of it.’ Dr. Thomas, your credentials and experience together with your character and demeanor are the ingredients that make you the right person at this time in our 162-year history to lead North Central College forward.”
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