Biography of Thomas J. Schwarz
Thomas J. Schwarz, the fifth President of Purchase College, heads a highly selective public college of more than 4,100 students that combines a superior liberal arts and sciences education with professional, conservatory training in the visual and performing arts on one campus.
Since he joined Purchase in 2002, President Schwarz has worked enthusiastically with students, faculty, and staff to achieve higher levels of academic excellence. As a result, both retention and graduation rates have improved. He has encouraged greater interdisciplinary study and collaboration. He has fostered greater communication among all college constituents and has attracted new resources to the College. During his tenure, the endowment has increased, allowing for greater support of students and faculty. The campus has added new residences and a new Student Services building. Foreign programs have expanded to Turkey, China, Singapore, and Mexico, in addition to Spain, Italy, and France.
In 2007, President Schwarz signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment which obliges him to follow a timeline and take certain steps towards making Purchase College climate neutral. The renovation of the central campus plaza as well as campus buildings and residences reflects this commitment to the environment. As a result, The Princeton Review named Purchase College as one of the 268 greenest campuses in the United States.
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.
President Schwarz is a board member of Hamilton College and the New York State Preservation League. In July 2011, he was appointed by the Governor to serve on the MTA search advisory committee. He has two children and five grandchildren.