Dr. Gary Thomas of West Orange, N.J., chancellor of UMR (now Missouri
University of Science and Technology) from 2000-2005, died Tuesday, Jan. 1,
2008, at age 70.
As chancellor, Dr. Thomas oversaw all academic and administrative functions
on the Rolla campus. Soon after arriving on Sept. 1, 2000, he began to focus
his efforts on reversing the campus’s declining enrollment. He broadened the
university’s academic offerings to include five new online degree programs, 15
graduate certificate programs, and new degree programs in architectural
engineering, environmental engineering and technical communications.
During Dr. Thomas’ five-year tenure, enrollment increased nearly 18 percent,
from 4,748 when he arrived in 2000 to 5,602 in 2005.
Dr. Thomas worked to increase funding for research programs and from private
sources. He also pushed for more state funding for the campus, meeting
frequently with state and federal legislators to explain the university’s
economic benefit to Missouri. In addition, Dr. Thomas helped secure the
campus’s largest gift for an academic program, a $5 million donation from
alumnus John Toomey and family, for the renovation and expansion of the
university’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Complex, since renamed Toomey
While at Rolla, Dr. Thomas promoted the development of the campus’s first
Residential College, a residence in which students live in “learning
communities” that combine academic study with student living.
“Gary Thomas was a leader who helped put our university on more stable
footing during a very crucial time in its history,” says Missouri S&T
Chancellor John F. Carney III, who succeeded Dr. Thomas at Rolla in 2005. “He
worked very hard to move this campus toward the goal of becoming a true
technological research university by expanding our academic portfolio. He also
worked to raise our profile with alumni, students and the public.
“This university is a far better institution because of Chancellor Thomas’
contributions. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Thomas family during this
Prior to joining UMR in 2000, Dr. Thomas was a member of the electrical
engineering faculty at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. He served
as NJIT’s provost and senior vice president of academic affairs from 1990-1998
and held several other administrative positions at the university. From
1980-1990, he served as vice president for academic affairs. Also at NJIT, he
helped form the school’s College of Science and Liberal Arts, where he served
as the first dean, as well as the School of Management and the Dorman Honors
College. Before joining the NJIT faculty, he held several academic and
administrative posts at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Dr. Thomas was the eighth administrator to serve as chancellor. A native of
California, Dr. Thomas earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering
at the University of California at Berkeley in 1960. He earned a master’s
degree in physics at UC-Berkeley in 1962 and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering
and computer science at the same institution in 1967.
Dr. Thomas is survived by his wife, Barbara Tedesco; four children, Katelin
Thomas, Ellie Thomas, Derek Thomas, and Jennifer Tedesco; three grandchildren,
Gwyneth and Caleb Foley and Ahsaan Cauley; his sister Lois Innes; his brother,
Donald Thomas; and many nieces and nephews.
NJIT has established the Gary Thomas Doctoral Fellowship Program in
recognition of Dr. Thomas’ contributions.
Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requests
that contributions be sent to NJIT to add to the endowment that supports the
Gary Thomas Doctoral Fellowship. Checks may be made payable to The NJIT
Foundation and sent to the Office of University Advancement, New Jersey
Institute of Technology, 323 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Newark, NJ