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Thomas ’24: ‘Blazing the Trail’

As he’s just months away from wrapping up his tenure as Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies’ (MXIBS) chairman, Jordan Thomas ’24 beamed with pride reflecting on how far he’s come over the last four years.

“I feel blessed,” said Thomas, who helped lead one of the biggest recruitments in recent years. Today, more than 75 students are official members of the MXIBS, making it the largest student organization on campus.

MXIBS Chairman Jordan Thomas ’24

“We came together as a brotherhood and made history.”

Thomas’ involvement with the institute didn’t start until his second year on campus.

Wabash was slowly getting back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic during the philosophy major and Black studies and business minor’s first year. Many clubs and organizations limited in-person social gatherings and depended on virtual meetings.

“A good amount of my friends—guys who I really looked up to—were members of the MXI, so I decided to check it out,” recalls the senior from Brownsburg, Indiana. “Meetings were still happening on Zoom and that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t feel like I could really connect with the group, so I didn’t officially join at first.”

Thomas instead spent his freshmen year focused on the sport that ultimately brought him to the College and that he has loved since he was a kid: track. The short sprints runner suffered an injury in high school, but was determined to stick with physical therapy and run for the Little Giants.

Clyde Morgan, head track and field coach, was excited to have Thomas join the team, but worried about the severity of his injury and how long he may be able to stick it out and stay healthy.

“He had an impressive record at Cathedral High School and I knew early on he had a lot of potential to be a great leader,” Morgan said. “I had all the confidence in his abilities, but I did tell him coming in that we’re going to have to be really careful. We got a couple of indoor and outdoor races in, and then I started to notice him really limping after some workouts, and I don’t even think he realized it.”

Thomas’ soreness continued to get worse into his sophomore year and his doctor warned him that the injury could develop into something more serious.

Morgan knew it was time to have a hard conversation.

“I sat him down and told him that everything he had going on with his health was not worth sacrificing for this sport,” Morgan said. “He did struggle with that reality. Whenever you tell someone who has dedicated so many years and so much love to something that it’s time to move on, it’s tough.”

More than 75 students are official members of the MXIBS, making it the largest student organization on campus.

Thomas said giving up running was one of the hardest things he had to do, but was thankful that he could still have an impact on the team as Morgan offered him a student coaching position. He has served in that role since.

“He didn’t miss a beat,” Morgan said. “It was cool seeing a sophomore, someone that young, work so naturally with the guys. He didn’t have to earn their respect. He understood our philosophies, he was honest but not brutal, and there has never been an ego with him. He carries that attitude with him in everything he does.”

Thomas admits it can be challenging to coach guys who are his friends but said he loves feeling like he’s serving as their peer mentor.

“I’m there to be their cheerleader, their encourager,” he said. “I also love getting to be around Coach Morgan and Coach (Rob) Johnson. They are great individuals that have helped me become a better leader as well.”

Morgan encouraged Thomas to take his leadership skills to other parts of campus, and with the help of Director Steven Jones ’87, pushed him back toward the MXIBS.

After connecting with more members and learning about the institute’s history and mission, Thomas said he was all in.

“The institute quickly became my home away from home,” said Thomas. “I’m big on relationships, so when I got in there and saw that other guys cared about that too, I thought, ‘This is what I like. This is where I am meant to be.’”

From that point on, Thomas made it his mission to grow the membership of MXIBS. He led the membership committee his junior year, and decided to team up with Bradley Harrington ’24 to run for chairman and vice chairman, respectively.

Having served in other leadership roles on and off campus, Thomas was confident in his abilities. In addition to his membership with the MXIBS and Wabash Real Estate Club, he’s also a lead innovation consultant for the Center for Innovation, Business and Entrepreneurship (CIBE) and has worked as both a sales professional and branch manager for Cutco Cutlery.

“I was ready for the next step,” Thomas said. “I felt like being chairman was where I could really show my strengths. I came in focused on building relationships with the community and making the institute into something that we can all be proud.”

Jones said he is proud of the work Thomas and Harrington, who he calls “the yin and the yang” have put in this year to build up and diversify membership of the MXIBS.

He said the two, along with other members of the Ram’s Horns (executive board), have leaned on each other for support and created a culture that shows younger members that they can have a lasting impact on the future of the institute.

Thomas with his MXI family and friends at a home football game.

“A great leader understands that you don’t carry the load by yourself. In order to be successful, you have to bring people together to work toward one mission. That’s what Jordan has done,” Jones said. “He has this incredible sense of credibility and responsibility, and I think others who are now thinking about leadership at the MXI see it even more clearly because of the way that he’s carried himself.

“He’s blazing the trail,” he continued. “His actions have shown an appreciation for the people who have come before him and contributed to the MXI while also setting up future generations for success.”

During his Chapel Talk speech given to campus on February 8 with Rams Horns Harrington, Declan Chhay-Vickers ’26, and Vaughn Taylor ’25, Thomas thanked his many mentors on campus—MXIBS staff, his coaches, and professors—who have contributed to his growth at Wabash as a leader. This group also included his brothers.

“I want to thank my guys. Y’all have done so much for me you don’t even know it,” Thomas said. “Once I graduate, the first thing I’m going to think about is you guys because you have been the highlight of my time here. … Thank you for trusting me to be your leader.”

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