Dr. Thomforde brings to Moravian an impressive record of seasoned and successful leadership in higher education, at colleges and universities that share our clear emphasis on academic quality, our rich and enduring heritage, and our current spirit of progress and renewal. From 2001, he served as president of St. Olaf College, one of our nation’s most distinguished liberal arts colleges. Under his stewardship, St. Olaf experienced ever-greater academic quality, robust enrollments, a significant boost in annual and capital fund-raising, dramatic endowment growth, and a dynamic internal and external community life.
Thomforde’s presidency at St. Olaf was marked by a successful capital campaign that generated $147 million, exceeding its goal by $20 million. In addition during his presidency, annual giving increased significantly in both dollars and participation, while St. Olaf’s endowment increased from $160 million to $235 million, placing it among the highest-performing endowments nationwide.
Thomforde also directed the development and implementation of an ambitious five-year strategic plan, as well as that institution’s first comprehensive marketing plan. He is especially proud of leading an initiative that reaffirmed St. Olaf’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, resulting in a significant increase in the percentage of students of color on campus.
During Thomforde’s tenure at the Minnesota college, St. Olaf improved its already-prominent institutional position in the U.S. News and World Report rankings in such key categories as academic quality, graduation and retention rates, student selectivity, annual giving, graduation rate, and overall ranking.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Thomforde earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in medieval and Russian history from Princeton University in 1969. A member of Princeton’s basketball team, Thomforde was named AP/UPI Honorable Mention All-American in 1969. He received the Franklin Bunn Award for contributions to Princeton University in 1969.
Following intensive course work in Mandarin Chinese at Middlebury College, Thomforde taught Western languages and medieval European history at Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan, until 1971. He subsequently enrolled at Yale University Divinity School, where he received a Master of Divinity degree in 1974, with concentrations in biblical studies, church history, and philosophy.
From 1974 to 1978, Thomforde was an assistant chaplain and instructor in philosophy and religion at Colgate University. From 1978 to 1986, he served as pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Dansville, New York, where he provided pastoral care and leadership for his congregation, held leadership roles in regional and synod church affairs, and was very active in community organizations. He also did extensive pastoral work at nearby Attica prison. From 1986 to 1996, Thomforde served as chaplain at Susquehanna University and taught in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Susquehanna University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 2001.
Thomforde served as president of Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, from 1996 to 2000, where he led efforts to reshape academic programs, revise the college’s constitution and by-laws, develop a comprehensive master facilities plan, establish policies for successful endowment management, and restore fiscal responsibility. During his tenure as Bethany president, Thomforde completed requirements for a Doctor of Ministry degree from Princeton Theological Seminary; he was awarded that degree in 2000.
Thomforde’s wife Kathy is a former professor of economics and director of management studies at St. Olaf. As a member of St. Olaf's faculty from 1985 to 2006, she taught marketing and arts management, and management policy and strategy. Her book, Improving Schools Through Community Engagement: A Practical Guide for Educators, was published by Corwin Press in 2003. The Thomfordes have five children, Rebecca, 32; Sarah, 31; Jonathan, 28; Claire, 19; and James, 17.