Biography of Thomas L. “Les” Purce
Dr. Thomas L. (Les) Purce served as president of The Evergreen State College from July 1, 2000 until September 30, 2015. Prior to that, he served as Vice President of Extended University Affairs and Dean of Extended Academic Programs at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. He had been with WSU since 1995.
Accepting the Evergreen appointment was something of a homecoming for Dr. Purce. He was Executive Vice President at the college from 1992 to 1995. He also served as Interim President of Evergreen for two years before that. He came to Evergreen in 1989 as Vice President for College Advancement.
Before coming to Evergreen, Dr. Purce was at Idaho State University as Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Research Park and Economic Development. Dr. Purce’s career in the state of Idaho spanned 15 years in both the public and private sectors. He was the first black elected official in the state, serving as city councilman and then mayor of Pocatello. He later served as Director of Idaho's departments of Administration and Health and Welfare under Governor John Evans.
In the private sector, he served as partner and chief operating officer of Power Engineering Inc., one of the fastest growing electrical engineering firms in the Northwest.
Dr. Purce holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, a Master of Arts degree in Education, and a Doctor of Counselor Education from Idaho State University. He also attended Harvard University's Institute for Educational Management. President Purce has also received two honorary degrees. In May of 2009, he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and in May of 2014, he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from SUNY Geneseo, NY.