The legacy of alumnus Glen Thomas’ (’68) work in education extends beyond administrators who knew him personally to California students across the state starting in preschool. Thomas passed away at age 72 on July 26 after a lengthy battle with cancer. His work for P-12 education will continue to benefit students and educators alike. Throughout his career, he sought to serve others humbly and was instrumental in shaping California’s academic standards.
“In Glen’s various leadership roles, Glen worked with many of the committees overseeing and rewriting standards for the Curriculum Subject Matter Frameworks,” said June Hetzel, Dean of Biola University’s School of Education. “These frameworks influence what is written in textbooks and textbook publishers have to meet the standards of the subject matter frameworks in order for the budget managers of schools and districts to allocate dollars for purchase of these materials.”
Thomas, who served as a professor-at-large for Biola since 2011, made a tremendous impact on Biola School of Education students’ academic journey as he shared his expertise and experience through providing periodic lectures on the “State of Education” on campus and led Biola’s Emerging Leaders Institute in Sacramento (ELI). ELI is a one day annual trip to Sacramento that exposes educators — Biola students and alumni — to policy makers and implementers in the California education community. Thomas would lead students through back-to-back meetings with state officials, such as state superintendents, state senators, assembly members, lobbyists, assessment directors (i.e., Keric Ashley), along with a whirlwind tour of the capital building, the capital mall, and the Department of Education. The 16-hour day was an immersive educational experience where Thomas was able to introduce the students to highly influential state officials, shared Hetzel.
Glen also served on numerous education panels at Biola during the last two decades and provided periodic lectures on the state of education. He was also highly responsive to the dean and professors in Biola’s School of Education, always willing to offer wisdom and advice when asked.
Thomas served many years in the P-12 sector before moving into administrative posts in Sacramento. He began his teaching career in Modesto, Calif. in 1970, working with the children of farm laborers in migrant education. Later, he joined the California Department of Education as California was becoming a leader in the academic standards movement.
Thomas served as California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) executive director from 1998 to 2006, an organization that serves California’s 58 county superintendents in support of students, schools, districts and communities. According to the publication EdSource, Thomas encouraged county offices to take a larger role in training teachers in new academic standards and in teaching using state-adopted textbooks.
In 2009-2010, he served as Secretary for Education to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, later being appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the board of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC).
Starting in the late 1990s, Thomas partnered with Hetzel and former Associate Dean of Education and now Faculty Emeritus, Tim Stranske, among others at Biola to organize and lead ELI. Hundreds of graduate students and alumni from Biola's School of Education have benefited over the last two decades from the institute. Additionally, Thomas and his wife, Connie Thomas, were also highly active with Biola's Alumni Association and hosted many send-off events in their home for freshmen leaving the Sacramento area to attend Biola.
“Our condolences, love, and prayers are with the Thomas family,” said Hetzel. “We appreciate the many contributions of time and expertise that Glen Thomas made to his alma mater and to the P-12 children of California and teachers-in-training at Biola University.”
In 2013, Biola awarded Thomas Biola’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his career in education influencing the lives of thousands of students, hundreds of educators and many leaders in the California State Capitol.
Thomas received his bachelor's degree in psychology from Biola, a master’s degree in special education from Washington State University and his doctorate in education from the University of Southern California. He is survived by his wife, Connie, two daughters and four grandchildren, all residing in the Sacramento region. Memorial services were held on Aug. 4, 2019 in Sacramento.
Written by Jenna Loumagne, assistant director of media relations and strategic communications. For more information, contact Jenna at (562) 777-4061 or email@example.com.