PSU news by
Penn State's student blog

Topics

About

Penn State’s 15th President Joab Thomas Dies at 81

Penn State’s 15th president and Thomas Building’s namesake, Joab Thomas, has passed away at the age of 81.

Thomas, who preceded Graham Spanier as university president from 1990 to 1995, notably supervised Penn State’s entry into the Big Ten; the creation of the Office of Undergraduate Fellowships, which assists Penn State students in winning prestigious scholarships like the Fulbright; the university’s corporate partnerships with AT&T, Pepsi, and Barnes & Noble; and several campus expansions, including the groundbreaking for the Bryce Jordan Center and the authorization for Paterno Library.

Prior to his stint as Penn State president, Thomas served as the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa’s president from 1981 to 1988. There, he most notably tripled the university’s research funding, while establishing Alabama’s honors program and its Presidential Scholars program.

He was also responsible for finding a successor for legendary Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant, who retired in 1982, during his tenure as Alabama’s president. Eight years after Bryant’s retirement, Thomas was very nearly charged with replacing Joe Paterno, too, according to Tuscaloosa News:

Soon after arriving in State College, Pa., Thomas said a group of faculty members asked if he’d be willing to address the entire faculty. He agreed and even said he’d take questions.

Thomas said the first question he was asked was his plan for replacing Paterno should the Nittany Lions coach decide to retire.

“I said I was going to retire [instead],” Thomas said. “You can’t ask one man to replace both Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno.”

Thomas, born on Feb. 14, 1933 in Holt, Ala., earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate Degrees in Biology from Harvard University, where he studied or worked from 1955 to 1961. He then returned to his home state to begin his career in academic administration at Alabama, where he worked his way up to Vice President of Students Affairs in 1974. Thomas also served as Chancellor of North Carolina State University from 1976 to 1981 prior to returning to Alabama to serve as its president.

Current Penn State president Rodney Erickson released a statement commemorating Thomas’ life and accomplishments:

“Joab Thomas was a brilliant scholar, a visionary leader and a true gentleman. His commitment to students was legendary, and he played a critical role in building Penn State into an internationally ranked university. During Joab’s tenure as president of Penn State, he led the effort to strengthen undergraduate education; he initiated the largest building program in the University’s history; and his focus on fiscal responsibility resulted in more efficient resource allocation, as well as enhanced philanthropy and corporate partnerships. What’s more, Joab oversaw Penn State’s entry into the Big Ten athletic conference and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the academic consortium of the conference. We were very fortunate to have Joab’s leadership, dedication and goodwill, and he will be greatly missed.”

About the Author

Bobby Chen

Writer and photographer, helping tell the many stories of the Penn State community.

Comments

More by Robert

[Photos] Penn State Tramples UMass, 48-7

Relive Penn State’s 48-7 thrashing of the UMass Minutemen through the lenses of our photographers, Bobby Chen and Hannah Byrne.

[Photos] Lunar Lion Debuts New Mission Headquarters

[Video] The Statesmen’s Ben Mays Sings Proposal to Girlfriend, In A Cappella

Athletics

Shea Moyer Lifts Penn State Women’s Soccer Past West Virginia 1-0

Sophomore midfielder Shea Moyer scored the game-winning goal in the 80th minute of a rainy season opener at Jeffrey Field.

Penn State Women’s Soccer Poised For Strong 2018 Season

Incoming Penn State Track & Field Athlete Kristian Marche Shot To Death In Philadelphia

Former Women’s Gymnastics Coach Files Lawsuit Against Penn State Over Handling Of Abuse Allegations

Men’s Soccer Trio, Reading United Win PDL Eastern Conference Title, Fall Short Of National Championship

Student Life

Start The Semester Off Right With These Welcome Week Activities

Don your brightly-colored college shirt and officially begin your Penn State career with these Welcome Week activities.

Nike Releases New Penn State Sneakers

Penn State Parking Office Runs Into Student Permit Purchase Issues

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

Join Onward State: Fall 2018 Application

Onward State is hiring for the fall semester and we’d love to have you join us.

Start The Semester Off Right With These Welcome Week Activities

Don your brightly-colored college shirt and officially begin your Penn State career with these Welcome Week activities.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Assessing Penn State’s Front Seven Following Tuesday’s Medical Retirements

Penn State’s defensive line rotation will be shaken up following Ryan Buchholz’s medical retirement from football, while the coaching staff is letting the linebackers duel it out during camp.

Send this to a friend