Thomas J. Schwarz
Purchase College State University of New York
Thomas J. Schwarz, the fifth President of Purchase College, heads a highly selective public college of over 4,200 students which combines a superior liberal arts and sciences education with professional, conservatory training in the visual and performing arts on one campus. Students from 44 states and approximately 35 countries attend classes in the 25 building campus on 500 acres in Westchester located 40 minutes from Manhattan.
Students are motivated by the conviction that artists and scholars are indispensable both to each other and to an enlightened society. They are encouraged to acquire the skills and knowledge that build the foundation of a productive career and a meaningful life.
The campus houses The Performing Arts Center, a four-theater complex considered one of the finest of its kind on the East Coast which presents more than 100 professional and numerous student performances annually. The Neuberger Museum of Art, the tenth largest university museum in the country, presents 10 temporary exhibitions each year in addition to displays from the permanent collection. Both provide the campus and the wider community with a rich concentration of the arts and contribute directly to the academic programs.
Purchase College has been recognized by The Princeton Review in its Best 380 Colleges, 2016 Edition, which praised Purchase’s unique, vibrant students and engaged faculty, along with listing Purchase as one of the "greenest" colleges and among the best Northeastern colleges. The U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges ranked Purchase as one of the "Top Ten Public Liberal Arts Colleges,” and a Tier 1 National Liberal Arts College, while Kiplinger's Personal Finance names Purchase College as a Best Value College for 2016.
Since he joined Purchase in 2002, President Schwarz has worked enthusiastically with students, faculty and staff to achieve academic excellence and has encouraged interdisciplinary study and collaboration. He has improved communication and administrative leadership and has attracted new resources for the institution. During his tenure the endowment has more than doubled and the campus has added new dormitories and new garden apartments, renovated and built new academic buildings. There is a new Student Services building and the central campus plaza has been completely rebuilt and landscaped. New “Smart Technology Classrooms” have been added, and students now have their own Student Center. Grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institution of Health and the Office of Women of the U.S. Department of Justice, among others, support academic and research programs. The Regional Economic Development Council awarded a $765K grant recently in recognition for Purchase College’s leadership in campus sustainability.
President Schwarz has worked on improving four year graduation rates, which have almost doubled, fostered collaborations between and among the conservatories and tried to encourage the faculty to seek new opportunities for academic directions. He has created partnerships with Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center Chamber Music, and Glimmerglass Opera, New York Medical College and soon a branch of the Neuberger Museum will open on 42nd Street opposite Bryant Park. New programs have been started at Rockland Community College and in the city of Yonkers, PC4: the Purchase College Center for Community and Culture. Award Ceremonies to bring visibility to the College have been created including the Nelson Rockefeller Awards in the Arts, and the Purchase College Science Entrepreneurship Award in collaboration with the Westchester County Association.
Entrepreneurial activities include developing an off-site parking facility for the Westchester County Airport, Purchase Park2Fly, agreements with New York University and Long Island University for space usage, the development of a large solar array and an emphasis on supporting minority and women owned business enterprises for which the College has been recognized by S.U.N.Y. as the leader in this initiative. In the
division of continuing education, there is an emphasis on summer programming, certificate programs, and adult degree programs.
The more than 23,000 alumni of this 43 year-old institution are major contributors to education, business, technology and the sciences, the arts and entertainment. Graduates include Oscar, Emmy, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winners, research scientists, prominent journalists, academics, and teachers, CEO’s of international corporations, Guggenheim Fellows and MacArthur Genius Award winners, members of the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the American Academy of Design.
Prior to Purchase, 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 which honored him with an Honorary Degree in 2014 and a law degree, cum laude, from Fordham University School of Law where he was an editor of The Fordham Law Review. The Fordham Law School Alumni Association also awarded him the Leonard Manning Award for Distinguished Alumni in 2004.
Among his other responsibilities, he served as mayor of the Village of Ocean Beach in Suffolk County from 1978 to 1987, 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.
President Schwarz is the author of numerous publications, including “Trustee’s Stint in the President’s Chair” (Trusteeship Magazine, May/June 2000); Federal Regulation of Campaign Finance and Political Activity, (Matthew Bender 1982); “Revision of the Presidential Primary System” (NYU Rev. of Law and Social Change, Vol. X, 1980-1981); “Municipal Bonds and the Securities Laws: Do Investors Have an Implied Private Remedy?” (Securities Reg. L. J., Vol. 7, 1979); “Public Financing of Elections: A Constitutional Division of the Wealth” (American Bar Association, 1975).
His passion for higher education led him to membership on the Hamilton 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 Acting President at Hamilton where he worked with a wide array of constituencies to improve administrative and operational functions and to secure increased private and grant revenues.
As a member of the American Bar Association, he served on the Election Law committee and was a special advisor on election reform. At the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, he served on the federal legislation, election law and municipal affairs committees. In addition, the Legal Aid Society presented him with its Pro Bono Award in 1998.
Prior to his presidency at Purchase, President Schwarz also served as a trustee of ArtsConnection, which provides supplemental arts education in New York City public schools. He was also previously a board member of the Riverside Park Fund and the New York State Preservation League and is now a member of the Preservation League Council. He previously owned an antique gallery in Washington D.C. and is a collector of contemporary art and ceramics from the Arts & Crafts period.