Dr. Gwendolyn Thomas was born on September 29, 1925 in Danville, Pennsylvania. She passed away peacefully on December 26, 2019 at the age of 94. She is survived by her sons Henry W. Thomas III and Stanley F. Thomas. She was preceded in death by her ex-husband, Henry W. Thomas II, her mother Carrie Morris and her sister Elizabeth DeLine. She leaves us to cherish her memory; her niece Pamela White-Fairman, husband J.W. Fairman their children, Morgan and Jay, her nephew T.J. DeLine his wife Erin and their three girls Zoe, Phoebe and Daphne.
Gwen received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1947. From 1947-1951 she taught at West Charlotte High School in Charlotte, NC. In 1951-1953 she taught English at The Tuskegee Institute, home of the Tuskegee Airmen, where she met Henry. She earned her Masters Degree in 1953 from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the summers from 1948-1952 she studied at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1959, as a military wife and mother, of Henry who was born in 1954, she studied at Cambridge University in Cambridge, England. She taught in Denver at Cole Junior School, from 1960-1961. Then, from 1961-1962 at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California she was an elementary school kindergarten teacher and mother to Stanley who was born in 1962. She was a teaching fellow at the University of Denver, 1963-1965. From 1965-1972 she taught at the Colorado Institute for Teachers and Temple Buell during her summers. She was the Director of The Intercultural School of the Rockies at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, CO, 1971-1972. She earned her Ph.D. from University of Denver in 1974. From 1965-2003 she served as an English professor at Metropolitan State College. In 1980 she became a full professor. She taught everything from freshman English to African-American women’s studies and literature. During this time she served as the Dean of the School of Community and Human Services,1980-1985, as the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs,1985-1988, and as the Vice President for Office of Institutional Advancement,1989-1991. In 2004 she was named Emeritus Professor of English at Metropolitan State College. All the while, she continued to teach classes at the University of Denver and the Illif School of Theology. In 1995 she did a sabbatical at the University of Chicago’s Meadville/Lombard School of Theology where she taught graduate students preparing for ministry in the Unitarian Universalist Association. She taught English classes until her retirement in 2003. In 2004 she was named Emeritus Professor of English at Metropolitan State College.
Not only was Gwen an educator but she was also a civic leader who fought for the injustices of all races. Her work in public service began when she was in college, where she became a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She was on the board of the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union and the National Board of Directors, Chair Advisory to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Member of the Colorado Democratic State Committee. In 1976 she was the first woman elected to the Unitarian Universalist Associations’ Board of Trusties. She received many awards: the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace and Humanitarian Awards, Honoring Academic Excellence and Social Responsibility in African American Studies award, Outstanding service for Urban League of Metropolitan Denver, ACLU awards for Appreciation of Outstanding Work and the Carl Whitehead award. She also received awards for Contribution to the Denver Community from Denver Temple Baptist Church, African American Affairs Council Metropolitan State College, Women in Higher Education award for the Advancement of Women in Higher Education and Administration.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 11, 2020 at the First Unitarian Society of Denver, 1400 N. Lafayette St. at 2:00-4 p.m. There will be a small reception following the service. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial gift to the ACLU. log on to aclu.org for information, or the First Unitarian Society of Denver.
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