Biography of Thomas J. Schwarz
Thomas J. Schwarz has served as the fifth President of Purchase College since 2002. The college of 4200 students is unique among public institutions as it combines both highly renowned professional and conservatory programs with distinguished liberal arts and sciences programs on a single campus and in one college. Purchase College also houses a world-class museum and a major regional performing arts center, just 45 minutes away from New York City.
President Schwarz arrived at Purchase during a challenging time—financial crisis; faculty, staff and student disengagement and disenchantment; and fragmentation among both academic and professional units. He immediately embarked on multiple initiatives to engage the entire college toward a common goal: the success of the Purchase College student. Included among the initiatives was a significant administrative restructuring program that added two new cabinet-level positions and a new strategic framework to restore fiscal health, re-energize faculty and student governance and enhance collaboration between administration, faculty, and students.
In 2004, President Schwarz headed the first-ever effort to successfully establish a Purchase College brand. Along with the tagline, “Think Wide Open,” the endeavor led to a sustainable logo and visual identity, well defined brand attributes, and the college’s inaugural strategic marketing plan, which was completed in 2011. The Think Wide Open brand and marketing campaign contributed significantly to enrollment goals for attracting and retaining the students most likely to benefit from our mission and campus environment.
Environmental and social responsibility are embedded in the college’s brand, as well as its mission statement. In 2007, President Schwarz signed the “American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment,” in which he promises that Purchase College will follow a timeline and take certain steps to achieve climate neutrality. The renovation of the central campus plaza, new campus buildings and residences, as well as modifications and renovations to existing structures, reflects this commitment. As noted in the Princeton Review, Purchase College is now one of the 268 greenest campuses in the United States.
Under President Schwarz’s leadership, in 2008, the college embarked on an ambitious academic restructuring plan, which was implemented in 2010. The plan, which encourages greater interdisciplinary study and collaboration, has fostered enhanced communication among all college constituents and has attracted new resources to the College. Importantly, the initiative has resulted in verifiably improved retention and graduation rates.
Prior to coming to Purchase College, President Schwarz had a distinguished career as a partner at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, where he was National Practice Leader of the Litigation Department. He was also the founding partner of the firm’s Committee on Diversity.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Hamilton College and a law degree, cum laude, from Fordham Law School, where he was an editor of The Fordham Law Review.
Among his other accomplishments: he served as mayor of the village of Ocean Beach in Suffolk County from 1978 to 1987, was Special Counsel to the New York State Commission on Government Integrity 1987-1991, was appointed by the Chief Judge to the Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections, was Counsel to the Governor’s Judicial Screening Committee and a member of the Task Force on Minority Representation on the Bench. The Legal Aid Society presented him with its Pro Bono Award in 1998. He is a recipient of the Leonard Manning Award from the Fordham University Alumni Association Law Review, which recognizes a distinguished alumnus for significant career achievements.
Schwarz joined the Hamilton College Board of Trustees in 1987. As chairman of the Hamilton planning committee, he oversaw completion of the first long-term plan in the college’s 200-year history. Later, in 1999, he served as Hamilton's acting president, during which time he worked with a wide array of constituencies to improve administrative and operational functions and to secure increased private and grant funding. In July 2011, he was appointed by the Governor to serve on the MTA search advisory committee. He has two children and seven grandchildren.