William L. Thomas

[ Age 74 ] The longtime student affairs vice president at University of Maryland was "a man of many accomplishments."

November 09, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

William L. "Bud" Thomas Jr., longtime vice president of student affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park, died of complications from a stroke Monday at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Silver Spring resident was 74.

Dr. Thomas was born and raised in Knoxville, Tenn. He served in the Army in the early 1950s, and as an active reservist attained the rank of captain.

He earned a bachelor's degree in social studies and secondary education in 1955, and a master's in education administration and supervision in 1966 -- both from the University of Tennessee. He had been assistant dean of students and director of residence halls there, and director of housing at the University of Colorado in Greeley while working on his doctorate in higher-education administration awarded by Michigan State University in 1970.

Dr. Thomas came to College Park in 1972 as director of residential life, and two years later became the vice president for student affairs, a position he held until retiring in 2001.

During his nearly 30 years at College Park, Dr. Thomas worked with six university presidents and left an indelible mark on the thousands of students he came to know during those years.

"He had a long and illustrious career here and was a man of many accomplishments. He was very astute, hired good people, and gave them lots of room for creativity and innovation. He was very good at that," said Linda M. Clement, who succeeded him as vice president for student affairs. "He was such an inspiration that many people spent their entire professional careers here, and having a chance to work with Bud kept them here."

Dr. Clement described him as "a large man with a booming voice" who, on entering a room, instantly became a "commanding presence."

"He was a national leader because he had put together probably one of the best divisions of student affairs in the country, and it won many awards," said James V. Osteen, assistant vice president for student affairs at College Park.

"He was beloved because he had touched so many lives and mentored so many people. He always challenged [those he mentored], never let them get away with anything and was always very supportive," Dr. Osteen said. "He was a very significant person in my life, going all the way back to the University of Tennessee when he hired me as a resident assistant."

Dr. Osteen said that when news of Dr. Thomas' death spread, he received many messages from alumni who uniformly said what a special person he had been in their lives.

Dr. Thomas was responsible for overseeing 15 student service departments with combined budgets of more than $130 million. He was the driving force behind the rebuilding of campus residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses, as well as renovation of the health center and the Adele Stamp Student Union. He oversaw construction of the Campus Recreation Center and Golf Course Clubhouse. He was also an associate professor in the department of counseling and personnel services.

In recognition of his tenure at the university, Dr. Thomas was presented the President's Medal in 2000.

"Much of what we brag about today at this university, including our healthy climate for diversity, our strong sense of ethics and our highly desirable recreational and residential facilities, can be credited to Bud's commitment to the highest standards for all aspects of campus life," university President C. D. "Dan" Mote Jr. said.

Dr. Thomas was an avid golfer and frequently played on the course he helped renovate at College Park..

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 17 in Memorial Chapel on the College Park campus.

Surviving are his wife of 45 years, the former Betsy Ann Woods; a son, William W. Thomas of Chicago; a daughter, Marcia G. Thomas of Silver Spring; and a sister, LaVerne Thomas Eager of Winston-Salem, N.C.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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