North Central College names new president
Anita Thomas interrupted herself as she beamed about North Central College's mission statement.
"Your mission statement," she said before catching herself. "Oh good ... our mission statement really resonates with me."
With that, the packed crowd at Wentz Concert Hall on the Naperville campus erupted in applause and launched a new era for the college.
Thomas on Tuesday was introduced as the 11th president in the 162-year history of North Central College. She's the first person of color to hold the position and replaces Troy Hammond, who left the college in June 2022, and interim president Donna Carroll.
"For me, education is activism," she told the audience. "It is the power to change lives."
Since 2019, Thomas has served as the executive vice president and provost at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn.
As part of a career of more than 25 years in education, Thomas was also the founding dean of the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences at the University of Indianapolis and taught for 10 years in Loyola University's counseling psychology and school counseling department. Before that, Thomas was a department chair for counselor education at Northeastern Illinois University.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Thomas earned a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and master's and doctorate degrees from Loyola.
"Dr. Thomas has a strong and authentic connection to the college's mission," said Kathy Birkett, a college trustee and chair of the presidential search committee. "She distinguished herself through her impressive record of leadership, commitment to the student experience and as an advocate for faculty excellence."
Thomas' hiring comes at the end of a monthslong search to replace Hammond while Carroll served in an interim role. Thomas, who also will hold a faculty rank of professor of psychology, officially assumes her new role on July 1.
"It's really clear that educational institutions have a role in preparing individuals to be good citizens," Thomas said, "to really think about the world and their role in it.
"I'm so grateful to be part of the North Central College family."