Diversity & Inclusion

President of Morehouse College Dr. David Thomas on the Hazards of “Benign Neglect”

In 2021, our community celebrated Black History Month with the theme of “Leading from Where You Are.” The goal was to celebrate leaders who have played pivotal roles in Black history and highlighted their stories to inspire action.

As a final highlight to the month, Bridgewater welcomed Dr. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College, the nation's largest and most prestigious liberal arts college for Black men. Moderated by Client Advisor Melody Rollins and CEO David McCormick, this special session explored Dr. Thomas’s candid perspectives on leadership, navigating organizational change, and crafting a vision for the future. Dr. Thomas elaborated on his mission at the college to produce “tempered radicals” who understand the racial gravity of the country but “defy that gravity and lift as they climb."

Drawing on his own experiences, Dr. Thomas also spoke about the critical importance of deliberate and sustained investment in Black talent. “From a mentoring standpoint, I suffered benign neglect,” he said. “And I think that is what happens to a lot of Black people in organizations who go in with tremendous talent. But nobody thinks that they’re going to be that person. So, it’s not that anybody does anything negative to you, but they don’t invest in you."

Dr. Thomas argued that breaking these biases starts with doing away with preconceived notions of capability: “I have seen people totally transform because somebody comes in and simply starts to treat them like an A-player.” The takeaway is that often the single biggest predictor of a person’s success is a mentor or sponsor who treats them as likely to succeed.

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