THOMAS--Dr. Joab. Dr. Joab Thomas, President Emeritus of The University of Alabama and Penn State University and former chancellor of North Carolina State University, died March 3 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at age 81. He is survived by his wife, the former Marly Allene Dukes; children: Catherine McGee (Dr. Robert S. McGee, Jr.), Greensboro, NC; David Thomas (Mari Lunde), Cincinnati, OH; Dr. Jennifer Bolton (Timothy J. Bolton), Tuscaloosa; and Frances Thomas Doherty, Athens, GA; and 13 grandchildren: Meredith and Laura McGee; Kieren, Lia and Olivia Thomas; Luke, Marly, Stella and Adam Bolton; Caroline, Emily, Allison and Philip Doherty. He is also survived by his brother Dr. James Thomas, Tuscaloosa, and his sister Lois McGarity, and her husband, the Rev. Owen McGarity, Austin, Texas. An Alabama native, Dr. Thomas was a world-renowned botanist and three-time graduate of Harvard University. He is remembered as a student-centered academic leader and a champion of undergraduate research who spearheaded the growth of world-class honors programs and led numerous highly successful economic development initiatives. In 1961 he joined the UA faculty, where he rose through the administrative ranks over the next 15 years. In 1976 he was named chancellor of NC State; in 1981 returned to Alabama as UA president; in 1990 he became Penn State's president, retiring in 1995. A prolific research scholar and seasoned outdoorsman, Thomas co-authored several books, including Wildflowers of Alabama and Adjoining States. Memorial gifts may be made to the Joab Thomas Scholarship at The University of Alabama, the Joab and Marly Thomas Graduate Fellowship at The Pennsylvania State University, or to The North Carolina State University Foundation.
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Published in The New York Times on Mar. 9, 2014