Ron Thomas (’65) exemplifies Truman’s long-standing history of excellence in education. From a blue-collar background, to Bulldog pride, to technical college president, Thomas proves that pursuing a career in education and helping people are one and the same.
Growing up in a manufacturing community in Illinois, Thomas knew he wanted to pursue a different career path. Studying education provided a chance to relate to a variety of individuals and make a difference. His academic focus never shifted from this original idea. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Truman and went on to earn a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Thomas was fortunate to have many opportunities to advance in the education field. He progressed from teacher and coach to positions in both admissions and student services. Additional college administration roles paved the way for Thomas to become president of Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn.
During his 13 years of service as president of DCTC, Thomas centered his efforts on collectively resolving a prestige deficit.
“People don’t appreciate two-year colleges with a technical focus,” Thomas said. “I wanted to promote the value and significance of a technical education.”
Thomas helped to enhance the physical facilities on campus and implemented new technology. He also worked on connecting with the surrounding community, building at least 70 new partnerships. These partnerships provided opportunities for students through co-curricular options, honor programs and scholarships.
However, for Thomas, the best accomplishments are seeing the students succeed.
“People forget plaques and awards,” Thomas said “The most important thing is creating opportunities for students to transfer on success.”
Although he retired in 2013, Thomas continues helping students in need with his endowed scholarship fund for Truman. The University’s support throughout the years has encouraged Thomas to provide the same support to other deserving students.
“Even when I didn’t give, they stayed with me,” Thomas said. “Truman provided support and never quit caring.”
In retirement, Thomas is spending a little time on himself. He and his wife live in Birmingham, Ala., near extended family. His spare time is spent writing and helping with an inner-city school as a basketball team’s statistician.
Even with a lifetime of education experience, Thomas urges students to never stop learning.
“Be proud of your college and be proud of what you’re doing. You can make a difference for people,” Thomas said.