Remembering Ron Thomas, the university’s 13th president, who passed away April 17 at age 74.
Ronald R. Thomas is home. For 13 years, from the summers of 2003 through 2016, that beloved home was here, as president of University of Puget Sound. His irrepressible enthusiasm for all things Puget Sound so animates the campus today that it’s impossible to speak of it in the past tense. He loved it all: every student, every possibility, every building, every blade of grass. The campus looks the way it does because he was a master of master planning. He envisioned a campus that was a true “tapestry of learning,” welcoming people and connecting them not only to ideas and the life of the mind but to each other. Before Ron, there was no Commencement Walk. No Event Lawn. No center for the health sciences, now known as Weyerhaeuser Hall. No Athletics & Aquatics Center. And perhaps his greatest point of pride: Commencement Hall—now Thomas Hall—a living and learning center meant to be both a home for ideas and a home for students.
Home. If you knew Ron Thomas at all, or heard him speak even two or three times, you know how important the concept of home was to him. Home is more than a place. Home is the people who inhabit it, the people who are welcomed there. He would quote one of his favorite novelists, Charles Dickens: “Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than any magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to.”