Henry M. Thomas III welcomed as new chairman, praised for record of service
SPRINGFIELD - Henry M. Thomas III was praised for his lifetime of civic and community service and formally welcomed into his new role as Chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees at a reception held this morning at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
"Henry Thomas champions educational opportunity, knowing the critical difference that education makes in the lives of our citizens," said UMass President Robert L. Caret. "Vital issues such as access, quality and affordability are at the top of his agenda."
President Caret added: "When I think of Henry Thomas, I think of public service, and I think of the kind of the people we need to make our communities, our state, our society and our world better."
Thomas, the president of the Urban League of Springfield, has served on the UMass Board of Trustees since 2007. Governor Deval Patrick appointed Thomas to the chairmanship of the 22-member Board of Trustees earlier this summer. Thomas succeeds James J. Karam, who continues to serve on the Board.
In addition to heading the Urban League of Springfield, Thomas serves as chief executive officer for the historic Camp Atwater -- the oldest African-American overnight youth camp in the United States - which he reopened in 1980 following a six-year hiatus. The camp, which Thomas attended as a youth and was influential in his life, is located in North Brookfield.
Thomas also has served on a number of civic and community organizations in Springfield and throughout the state. He was the founder and past chairman of the New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, served as chairman of Springfield's fire and police commissions, was the founder and co-chairman of Step Up Springfield and serves on the state Board of Higher Education.
Thomas said he was honored to accept Gov. Patrick's appointment to the chairmanship of the UMass Board of Trustees.
"My commitment to UMass stems from my fundamental belief that the University of Massachusetts is the critical engine for the social, economic and educational advancement of this region and for the Commonwealth as a whole," he said.
"UMass is a beacon of opportunity for thousands and thousands of people in this state. It provides promise, it provides hope, and it provides opportunity. I want to make sure that it remains a beacon that shines as brightly as it possibly can. Education is important to me because I have seen the difference that it makes in people's lives," Thomas added.
In addition to President Caret and Chairman Thomas, speakers at the breakfast included Congressman Richard E. Neal, Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, state Education Secretary Paul Reville, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy and UMass trustees Maria D. Furman and Victor Woolridge. Woolridge served as the emcee.
"I have known Henry Thomas since we were teammates playing football together at Technical High School. He is a smart and talented individual whose integrity is unquestioned. He was also a pretty good running back. During his professional career in Springfield, Henry has been a successful chairman of both the police and fire commission. He brought leadership and sound judgment to public service. As President & CEO of the Urban League, he is empowering people and making Springfield a better place to live, work and raise a family. In my opinion, the University of Massachusetts has the right person in place to be the new Chairman of the Board of Trustees. I am confident Henry will thrive in this exciting and important new role," said Congressman Neal.
"I am thrilled to be working with Henry in his new capacity as Chair and am confident he will provide just the kind of 21st Century leadership that will guide UMass into its next extraordinary chapter," said Reville, who also serves on the UMass Board of Trustees.
"Henry Thomas has been a steadfast champion for the University of Massachusetts. His support for the University's research mission and commitment to its academic excellence, while promoting access and diversity, has helped make UMass the great institution that it is today. Because of Henry and his colleagues on the Board of Trustees, UMass will continue to play a central role in the Commonwealth's innovation economy. We offer him our warmest congratulations and gratitude as he assumes his new role," Chancellor Subbaswamy said.
Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073
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