Former Central State University President Dr. Arthur E. Thomas died Thursday, February 9, 2023 in Silver Spring, Maryland, according to a university spokesperson.
Thomas was 84-years-old. Thomas, a Central State alumnus from the class of 1962, was the first university alum to lead the school.
After serving two years in the United States Army, Philadelphia native Thomas enrolled as a student at Central State. After graduation, Thomas began his educational career as a teacher with Dayton Public Schools. There he determined he would find ways to advocate for the poor and underserved.
During the desegregation of DPS in the late 60′s, Thomas wanted to ensure the safety of Black students that experienced violence against them. He walked many students to the district’s administration building, and when returning with the group, he was arrested along with some of the students.
Thomas earned a master’s degree from Miami University in education and later a doctorate of education administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1985.
After earning his doctorate, he became the president of Central State. According to the universities website, during his 10-year tenure, the university recorded an enrollment of more than 3,200 students, established a fully accredited manufacturing engineering program, developed a four-year international water resources program, re-established its master’s degree in education, strengthened the band program, the Grammy-nominated university chorus, and its women’s and men’s winning sports programs.
After departing the university in 1995, he continued his educational career and became an author and a public speaker.
Thomas served on the historically Black college/university (HBCU) advisory board during George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton presidencies for 12 years.
During the Clinton administration, Thomas served as a US Representative to the first democratic elections in South Africa and formed a relationship with Nelson Mandela to bring students to Central State. Thomas awarded 123 full scholarships to students from 23 African countries. Ten of those students were from South Africa, honoring his commitment to Mandela.
Central State University released a statement Friday on the passing of Dr. Arthur E. Thomas.
“Central State University President Emeritus Dr. Arthur E. Thomas left an indelible mark on Central State University and everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him,” the university said. “He dedicated his entire life to championing the cause of the poor, oppressed, and denied.”
Thomas remained active in the Central State community, returning to campus to celebrate with students to celebrate with and give back any way he could, the university said.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Arthur Thomas, sixth president of Central State University and graduate of the class of 1962,” said Jack Thomas, current Central State University President. “Today we mourn the loss of one of higher education’s brightest minds and strongest champions.”
In 2015, the university inducted Thomas into its hall of fame.
“My father loved people and education. He used his life experiences to provide opportunities for young people to succeed,” said Jeffrey Thomas, son of Dr. Thomas.
“I have lived a great life, and I have done what I was supposed to do. I am ok with being at rest,” Thomas once told his son.
Homegoing services for the late Thomas are pending.