Dr. Thomas Newsom ’91 took office as the 21st president of Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant on April 30—beginning his leadership in a time of complexity amid remote learning and social distancing. He is confident as he takes on the challenges.
“As we navigate a changing world, I look back on my time as a student at Austin College and become more grateful for how my experience prepared me to become a solutions-oriented decision maker,” said Newsom, a student-athlete who completed a major in communications. “Austin College gave me a strong foundation that has allowed me to work through challenges from a base of knowledge, empathy, and understanding of how decisions affect the world around me. My experience at Austin College, both inside and outside the classroom, is one that I often reflect on when working to ensure the success of our university students, faculty, and staff.”
Newsom has had a successful and progressive career in higher education, though such a journey was not at all on his agenda as an Austin College student. He originally anticipated attending law school, but an on-campus job may well have created his career path.
Then-athletic director Dr. Robert Mason ’52 asked Newsom to work as student sports information director, which he did his sophomore through senior years. Mason and Gregg Fort ’87, who held the job before Newsom, helped him find a graduate assistant position in the Athletic Department at Northwestern State University. Newsom eventually was employed there full time. “Early on, I was aspiring to be an athletic director and never dreamed that my student job would eventually lead to a university presidency.”
Newsom worked in sports information for 10 years, concluding as director of media relations for the Southland Conference. After a few years in newspaper work, he began a series of leadership roles at The Art Institutes over 13 years, including six years as president and vice chancellor of The Art Institute of Dallas.
For the past two years, Newsom served as interim vice president for student success and dean of students at Texas A&M–Commerce. Previously, he was president of Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, New Mexico. There, he also served as chair of the President’s Academy Executive Committee of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Newsom earned a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of North Texas and a master’s in higher education from Texas A&M–Commerce after leaving Austin College.
The new president is part of a family tradition at Austin College. His brother, Tim, graduated in 1989, and their parents Don ’64 and Carol (Campbell) Newsom ’62 have been recognized as Distinguished Alumni of the College. Several extended family members add to the family line, and Thomas and his wife, Vicky, have a son, Will, who is a member of the Austin College Class of 2021.
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 50 percent of students identifying as persons of color. The residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and more than 100 expert faculty members allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. Related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Austin College cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. The College, founded in 1849, is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.