A former Penn State vice president known for her tireless community and civil rights efforts has died at the age of 88.
Thelma “Mom” Price, born in Detroit, Mich. on June 11, 1925, died Jan. 8. A memorial was held at the State College Assembly of God Church on Saturday, Jan. 18.
Price was a political activist who worked on a number of Civil Rights initiatives. In 1977, she was elected the first charter president of the State College NAACP, and served in the role for several terms.
Price joined the Penn State staff in 1964 as the assistant dean for Student Services at New Kensington. In 1971, she moved to University Park as the acting director of the Equal Opportunity Program and in1972, she was promoted to assistant vice president for Student Affairs. She was the first African American woman to hold the position.
Terrell Jones, vice provost at Penn State for educational equity, says many staff members at Penn State are grateful for the work done by Price.
“Mrs. Price will be remembered for her strong advocacy for minority student concerns. To most of her students she was warmly known as ‘Mom,’” says Jones. “Many us who presently work at the university owe a great deal of gratitude to Mrs. Price for her tireless energy, vision and her courage to always speak truth to power.”
Loved ones say her efforts included finding needy students funds for books, food, housing, and clothes. She also found funding for student programming, such as the Black Arts Festival. She often used her professional connections to help students obtain internships and full-time employment. She also mentored staff and faculty members.
“My heart is saddened and thankful; Penn State and the world lost a great one,” wrote local muralist Michael Pilato, who painted Price on his famed Heister Street “Inspiration” mural. “In a lifetime, it is rare that one can find themselves lucky to meet such a human who not only inspires but also fills one’s heart with love at the mere mention of her name. To this day, African American students come to the mural and kiss her image on the wall. She helped so many with her soft heart and powerful activism utilizing her greatest gift — love.”
Following her retirement, Price became active in the local community through the State College Area High School, Stand for Children, Housing Transitions Inc., and Mom’s Kitchen, which provided free hot meals to those in need.
She sat various boards including, CentrePeace, Inc. and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Board. She was also a member of State College Kiwanis where she served on the board and as vice-president. She was a member of the University Baptist and Brethren Church and the Unity Church of Jesus Christ in State College.