Former Chancellor John E. Thomas dies at 90

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Mike Rominger (Courtesy of Appalachian Today)

Former Chancellor John E. Thomas poses outside App State’s admissions building, John E. Thomas Hall.

Ethan Hunt, Associate News Editor

Former App State Chancellor John E. Thomas passed away Sept. 2 at the age of 90, according to Chancellor Sheri Everts.

Everts shared the news of John E. Thomas’s death with the university in a campus-wide email Sept. 3, describing Thomas as the embodiment of a Mountaineer. 

“He championed the importance of teaching, research and service,” Everts wrote. “He will forever occupy a special place in my heart and the heart of our campus community.”

Thomas was chancellor from 1979-93. During his tenure, he focused on improving campus technology, starting Appalnet, an 8-channel campus cable system, and introducing a campus wide audio and video data system, according to the App State Library Digital Collections

Thomas also led App State while the university developed exchange programs in many countries, including China, Germany and Costa Rica. 

He joined the App State community in 1974 as the vice chancellor of academic affairs. After finishing his time as chancellor, Thomas worked as a North Carolina utilities commissioner before returning to App State to teach in the Walker College of Business until his retirement in 2004.

The university’s admissions building is named after the late former chancellor. 

Thomas served in the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy and worked for NASA prior to joining academia, according to his obituary. 

“His legacy of innovation — and his strong belief that teaching and research work hand in hand — will be upheld on our campus for centuries to come,” Everts wrote. 

A memorial service for Thomas is scheduled for noon Sept. 12 at Boone United Methodist Church.