Thomas says that his goal is to focus on competent leadership, regardless of where it comes from, while respecting the tradition and values of Morehouse. “My aim is not to depart from it, but build on it,” Thomas said in a Monday press conference, adding that his aim is to increase fundraising and build on the school’s “master plan” for facilities and expansion.

Thomas will be the college’s first president who is not a graduate of Morehouse since Benjamin E. Mays assumed leadership of the school in 1940. The 150-year-old institution is the nation’s only all-male HBCU.

Thomas will assume the role of president Jan. 1, 2018.