Thomas Stewart, Ph.D.
President, Patten University
Dr. Thomas Stewart graduated with honors from the University of the District of Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in 1987 and a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University.
Stewart is the sixth President of Patten University, and also leads corporate and community relationships efforts for UniversityNow, a social venture that helps to ensure that a high quality post-secondary education is available to people everywhere.
An advocate for affordable higher education, he became president of Patten University in July 2013. He has since worked with all University stakeholders to maintain accreditation standards and improve educational programs. Dr. Stewart is passionate and committed to the end goal of providing opportunities for students regardless of where they start in life.
His personal experiences with higher education help to set the tone for his unique leadership style. Experiencing two very different higher education paths, he understands the breadth of challenges facing students of color and provides a blueprint for students to follow.
His higher education journey began immediately after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, when he enrolled at UDC – a university he credits for supporting a first generation low-income student.
Like many students, he had to find his calling. He started as a civil engineer and architect major. In his junior year, he changed his major to an AA in paralegal studies, but his counselors advised him that political science would be a better choice with more viable long-term opportunities.
His interests were in political studies and research. In his senior year, Dr. Stewart attended the first annual Dr. Ralph Bunche Institute at Southern and Louisiana State Summer Political Science Institute in Baton Rouge, La. That was where he realized that a Ph.D. would unlock unexplored career opportunities. This experience positioned him for Harvard University, where he continued his education to receive his Ph.D. in Government at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
While at Harvard, he was involved in the Harvard Society of Fellows, National Black Graduate Student Association and the W.E.B. DuBois Society.
His journey from youthful uncertainty at a public university to a privileged opportunity at an Ivy League institution, remarkably culminated in less than $500 of total education-related debt.
He is associated with numerous social, entrepreneurial, civic and volunteer activities, including senior executive and board memberships with the Black Alliance for Educational Options, Edison Schools, LearnNow, National Black Graduate Student Association, Next Generation Foundation, Parents International, the SEED Public Charter School of Washington, DC, Symphonic Strategies, the World Organization of Resilient Kids, and Qwaku & Associates.
Dr. Stewart has authored numerous articles, reports and other documents that examine the challenges and best practices in the general area of education reform.
He continues to work tirelessly with organizations that serve non-traditional and marginalized groups, with particular expertise in the areas of qualitative research, coalition building, and business development.
Most recently, Dr. Stewart was elected to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and Universities Commission. He has also received a 2016 Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellowship in recognition of his distinguished contributions to education reform in America.