An aerial view of the lower quad. (Photo by Mike Ekern '02)

Alvin Abraham Named Founding Dean of Dougherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas

The University of St. Thomas is proud to announce Mr. Alvin Abraham as the founding dean of the Dougherty Family College, which will welcome its inaugural class of students in August 2017. Abraham currently serves as the executive director of KIPP Minnesota, a local nonprofit and public charter school solution that provides underserved communities access to high-quality, college preparatory education.

Alvin Abraham

Alvin Abraham

Dougherty Family College, named after lead benefactors Mike and Kathy Dougherty, is the newest St. Thomas college, intended to be an affordable first step toward a four-year degree. It is uniquely designed to help ensure the success of underserved students who may be the first in their family to attend college, or those who have limited support or financial assistance to pursue a four-year degree. The college will offer students an associate degree in liberal arts, with courses that meet Minnesota Transfer Curriculum guidelines, which will allow graduates to have a seamless transition to St. Thomas or other public or private four-year institutions in Minnesota. The college is now accepting applications through July 14, 2017, for its inaugural class.

“We launched Dougherty Family College with an ambitious vision to address the alarming education and prosperity gaps in Minnesota,” stated St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan. “We knew we would need a transformative leader, and we have found that in Mr. Alvin Abraham.”

“Alvin embraces our St. Thomas convictions of academic excellence and personal attention – with an emphasis on building relationships with students and families to better support the social and cultural well-being of students,” said St. Thomas Executive Vice President and Provost Richard Plumb. “His leadership in culturally responsive teaching, combined with formalized systems for using student data to inform instruction, have driven academic growth and been recognized for closing achievement gaps for racially and ethnically diverse student populations.”

Abraham moved to Minnesota in 2012 at the request of KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg, a trusted mentor and former Teach for America colleague.

“There was such passion and hope here,” Abraham shared. “It’s well known that when students in disadvantaged communities have access to high-quality education, they will rise to the challenge and be successful on a life path that is very similar to that of their peers in more supportive communities.”

Over the past five years, his leadership has resulted in transformative change for KIPP, accelerating academic growth, gaining state recognition and securing critical partnerships for wraparound services aimed at improving the academic experience. Along with expanding the KIPP charter schools, Abraham helped create the KIPP Through College program for Minnesota, which provides support for KIPP alumni as they navigate the college selection and higher education experience.

“I’m excited about working with the St. Thomas community to create a highly regarded two-year program that helps eliminate the opportunity gap that exists for students from underserved communities,” Abraham said. “A college degree is a game changer and can break the cycle of generational poverty in a family. It’s vital the Dougherty Family College has both a strong academic focus and the supports for students to be successful, with the confidence and skills to eventually graduate with a four-year degree.”

Abraham started his career as an elementary educator with Teach for America and then continued teaching in Houston, Texas. A proven leader, Abraham quickly ascended into educational administration as an assistant principal for Fort Bend Independent School District and then principal in Houston Independent School District. There he implemented the Apollo 20 program, a bold initiative identified by Harvard University’s Education Innovation Laboratory to transform education and improve academic achievement of educationally underserved students. Abraham relocated to Minneapolis in 2012 to lead KIPP North Star Academy and was appointed executive director in 2014.

Abraham holds a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Texas A & M University-College Station and a master’s of educational administration from the University of Houston. He is on the board of directors of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and serves on the national advisory board of Teach for America – The Collective.

The University of St. Thomas engaged the executive search firm of LymanDoran for the recruitment of this leadership position.

About the University of St. Thomas

Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas is a private, liberal arts university that emphasizes values-based education and career preparation. With more than 10,000 students, it is Minnesota's largest independent college or university. The university welcomes students of all ages, religions, races and financial backgrounds. Inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition, the University of St. Thomas educates students to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good. The university has three campuses: St. Paul, Minneapolis and Rome, Italy.