Pitzer College Names Higher Education Leader and Political Scientist Strom C. Thacker as New President

A Graduate of Pomona College, Thacker will return to his roots in The Claremont Colleges as Pitzer’s Seventh President

Claremont, Calif., Dec. 13, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Pitzer College announces the selection of Strom C. Thacker as the seventh president of the College.

A highly regarded college administrator and political scientist with a research focus on the political economy of development, Thacker previously served as Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He will take office at Pitzer on July 1, 2023.

Thacker succeeds the College’s sixth president, Melvin L. Oliver, who retired earlier this year after a tenure of six years at Pitzer. Jill A. Klein, former trustee and parent of a Pitzer graduate, is serving as interim president for the 2022−23 academic year. 

In an email message sent to the Pitzer community, Board of Trustees Chair Donald P. Gould announced Thacker’s selection and described him as an outstanding scholar and higher education leader with strong Claremont roots who “brings to Pitzer a depth of experience—in teaching, scholarship, administration, and leadership—that will serve the College very well in the years to come.”

Thacker expressed his gratitude and excitement at being selected in comments included in Gould’s community message.

“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,” he said.


A Career Rooted in Equity and The Claremont Colleges 

Growing up in Northern California, Thacker was able to attend college only thanks to generous financial aid, including a Pell Grant. 

His experience with the challenges that many students face in pursuing their higher education dreams has shaped his view of college equity and aligns with the Pitzer education’s emphasis on issues of social justice. 

Thacker, said Gould, “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.”

A Pomona College graduate, Thacker’s selection marks the first time in Pitzer history that the college will be led by a graduate of a member institution of The Claremont Colleges.

For Thacker, the Pitzer presidency represents a very special return to his roots and he said he “can’t wait to come ‘home’ to Claremont to help advance this amazing college.”


Scholarship & Leadership

After receiving his bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations at Pomona, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Thacker went on to receive both his master’s and doctoral degrees in Political Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Fluent in Spanish, Thacker has focused his academic research on the political economy of development, both globally and in Latin America. 

In addition to numerous journal articles, reviews, and other publications, his scholarship includes two critically acclaimed books published by Cambridge University Press: A Centripetal Theory of Democratic Governance (with John Gerring) (2008) and Big Business, the State, and Free Trade: Constructing Coalitions in Mexico (2000).

Dartmouth’s John Carey hailed A Centripetal Theory as “an ambitious project, which asks how the design of democratic institutions affects downstream indicators of government performance,” while Big Business, the State, and Free Trade is described in The Latin American Research Review as “a powerfully argued, conceptually sophisticated, and empirically convincing study."

Prior to his arrival at Union College, Thacker served at Boston University as Associate Dean of the Faculty, Social Sciences, within the College of Arts and Sciences. During his academic career he has held many prestigious appointments at universities around the world, including the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México.

Thacker’s wife, Isabelle Thacker, serves as a supervising attorney at The Legal Project in Albany, NY, where she helps clients secure humanitarian immigration relief, with a focus on survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.

From his first engagement with Pitzer College, Thacker said that “its core values and mission have sung to me. Over its six decades, Pitzer has seen higher education come to embrace the College’s vision of interdisciplinary and engaged student learning. The world needs Pitzer now more than ever.”



About Pitzer College: Founded in 1963, Pitzer College is a leading liberal arts and sciences college and has been consistently ranked among the nation’s top higher education institutions by The Princeton Review. The College emphasizes environmental and interdisciplinary studies, the arts, humanities and social, behavioral and natural sciences. With 1,200 students, Pitzer College is a member of The Claremont Colleges, a unique group in U.S. higher education that consists of five undergraduate colleges and two graduate institutions. The contiguous campuses share numerous programs and facilities. At Pitzer, students have access to all the resources of a major university while enjoying the benefits of a small liberal arts college experience and its personalized approach to education. Learn more about Pitzer College


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