With a generous gift of $1.5 million 1997, Richard L. Thomas established the Richard L. Thomas Chair in Creative Writing. What I took away with me from Kenyon was an education in how to appreciate what life has to offer and how to respond appropriately to a wide range of circumstances, says Thomas. The College gave me the experience of living and working with people of different backgrounds, of expressing my thoughts both orally and in writing, and of applying a sense of right and wrong to a complicated world. It nurtured in me the desire to keep on learning throughout my life.
Thomas came to Kenyon from Marion, Ohio, where his father was manager of the composing room at the Marion Star. At the College, Thomas excelled both in and out of the classroom. He was active in campus governance as a member and then president of the Student Assembly and as a member of Student Council. A member of Beta Theta Pi, Thomas served as the fraternity’s president in his junior year and as secretary of the Panhellenic Council. He was also a baseball player (and captain of the 1952 team, which recorded a respectable six wins under Coach Pat Pasini), business manager of the Kenyon Collegian, and a member of the Senior Society. In 1953, Thomas was awarded the E. Malcolm Anderson Cup, the College’s highest form of recognition for extracurricular leadership.
Throughout his professional career, Thomas found time to attend to Kenyon’s welfare in myriad ways. He was elected to the presidency of the Chicago Regional Association in 1963 and to his first (five-year) term on the Board of Trustees in 1967. Also in the late 1960s, Thomas led Chicago-area capital- and special-gifts efforts for a $3-million campaign for the College. He was a member of the Presidential Search Committee in 1973 and chair of the Sesquicentennial Campaign beginning in 1974. In recognition of his efforts and achievements, Thomas was presented with an honorary doctor of laws in 1972 and the Gregg Cup, Kenyon’s top alumni award, in 1975. He first served as chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1982 to 1986.