Ron Thomas served as Puget Sound’s 13th president from 2003 to 2016

TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound mourns the passing of President Emeritus Ronald R. Thomas, who died at the home he shared with his wife, Mary, on Vashon Island, Wash., on Monday, April 17, 2023. He was 74 years old.

President Ron Thomas

“Ron gave full measure of heart and soul to Puget Sound. Every member of our Logger community has been touched by Ron’s commitment to this university, and his tireless work to support our students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, donors, trustees, and friends,” said current Puget Sound President Isiaah Crawford. “His vision not only transformed our physical campus; it also enriched our spirit by strengthening our bonds with Tacoma, the broader community, and most of all, our alumni throughout the world.”

Thomas served as University of Puget Sound’s president from 2003 to 2016. During his tenure, he led the implementation of the Defining Moments strategic plan, the Tapestry of Learning master plan, and the ONE [of a Kind] capital campaign—the most ambitious fundraising effort in the university’s history, which surpassed its goal and raised $131.6 million in support of campus facilities, programs, and the endowment to fund student financial aid and other critical needs. His time as president included the completion of the science center renovation; the construction of Harned Hall; the envisioning and building of Weyerhaeuser Hall as a center for the health sciences; the creation of Commencement Walk and Commencement Hall, which was later renamed Thomas Hall in honor of Ron and Mary Thomas; and the Athletics & Aquatics Center. An insightful scholar, masterful writer, and inspirational leader, he was well-loved on campus, with students affectionately referring to him as “Ron Thom.”

A highly visible and enthusiastic ambassador for Puget Sound and liberal arts education, Thomas served on the boards of the American Council on Education, the Annapolis Group, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times Higher Education Cabinet, the Independent Colleges of Washington, and the President's Council for NCAA Division III.

Following the conclusion of his service to Puget Sound, Thomas continued to be actively involved in the local community and in higher education, most recently as a member of the Board of Trustees of the College of Idaho and the Vashon Center for the Arts. In 2016, he participated in the inauguration of Puget Sound’s 14th president, Isiaah Crawford, along with Presidents Emeriti Philip M. Phibbs and Susan Resneck Pierce.