Pitzer announces Strom Thacker PO ’88 as seventh president

Strom Thacker will begin his role as Pitzer’s seventh president on July 1, 2023. (Courtesy: Matt Milless)

After an eight-month-long search, Pitzer College selected Strom Thacker, a political scientist and Pomona College alum, as its seventh president. This is the first time Pitzer will have a graduate of the Claremont Colleges serve as its president.

Board of Trustees Chair Donald P. Gould announced the selection in an email to Pitzer faculty, staff and alumni on Dec. 13, calling Thacker an “outstanding scholar” and a “leader in higher education.”

Gould also emphasized Thacker’s Claremont connection, writing that “a Sagehen is returning to care for the nest!”

Thacker will assume the position of president on July 1, 2023 succeeding Melvin L. Oliver, who retired in February after six years being president at Pitzer and 45 years in higher education.

After Oliver retired, the Pitzer Board of Trustees appointed trustee Jill Klein as interim president while they assessed candidates for the position.

The search began last April with community discussions to develop a presidential leadership profile and solicit nominations.

The leadership profile included championing social justice and environmental sustainability, enriching Pitzer’s interdisciplinary science education and increasing the college’s visibility and impact. 

Over the summer, the search committee engaged in national outreach and recruitment. In September, semifinalists for the position were interviewed, and in October and November, finalists were interviewed and recommendations were presented to the Board of Trustees, where Thacker was eventually selected.

“I am tremendously excited to join the Pitzer College community and to partner with its faculty, staff, students, administration, trustees, alumni, and supporters to lead such an accomplished institution to an even brighter future,” Thacker said in a Pitzer press release.

In his email, Gould remarked on Thacker’s educational journey, writing that Thacker “has built on this experience throughout his career, becoming a consistent champion of college equity and access, as well as a leader who speaks very personally to the transformative power of the liberal arts education.”

Thacker attended Pomona College on a Pell Grant and graduated cum laude in 1988 with a degree in international relations. He then went on to University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in political science.

Prior to his appointment, Thacker was a professor of political science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, focused on international and comparative political economy.

Previously, he served in administrative roles at Union, including as dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs.

Beyond the coastal states, Thacker has held academic appointments around the world, including at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. He is fluent in Spanish and much of his work as a political scientist focuses on Latin America.

Thacker is the author of two books, both published by Cambridge University Press, including “A Centripetal Theory of Democratic Governance” with John Gerring and “Big Business, the State, and Free Trade: Construction Coalitions in Mexico.”

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