Joab L. Thomas was born in Holt, Alabama in 1933, and grew up
in Russellville, Alabama. He was educated at Harvard University (B. A. in
1955 and M.S. in 1957), and earned his Ph.D. from that institution in 1959.
He stayed at Harvard as a teaching fellow and researcher at the Arnold
Arboretum until 1961.
He returned to Alabama to teach biology at the
University of Alabama (1961), then became Assistant
Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences (1964), Dean for Student Development
(1969), and Vice President for Student Affairs (1974) at that institution.
He was the Chancellor of North Carolina State
University in Raleigh, North Carolina from 1975 to 1981. He became President
of the University of Alabama in 1981, then served as
the President of Pennsylvania State University from 1990 to 1995.
He was inducted into the Alabama Academy of
Honor in 1983. He married Marly Dukes of Boise,
Idaho on December 22, 1954, and they have four children: Catherine, David,
Jennifer. and Frances.
Found on a weblog, posted by Chris W. on
8/12/2005 concerning University of Alabama football:
In the dark, winless years following the death of Paul Bryant [football coach
at the University of Alabama, 1958-1982] there was talk of bringing back The
Bear [Paul Bryant's nickname] to restore the team to its legendary greatness.
The theory was that if a vegetable could govern the state [Gov. George
Wallace], it should be no problem for a dead man to coach a football team.
When I arrived for the first semester of graduate school in T-town
[Tuscaloosa, Alabama], I was invited by my parents to dinner with a friend of
theirs at the Indian River Country Club. I told that joke. Unbeknownst to me,
this prominent attorney "friend" as the County Chairman for the re-election
of George Corley Wallace. The president of the University of Alabama during
those dark days was none other than Joab Thomas. A
man who cared more for the academics of Alabama than he did for football, the
onerous task of replacing The Bear came during his tenure. Those of you who
follow football know what an impossibility that would be. Ray Perkins got the
call and Dr. Thomas caught the flack. Ultimately Joab
Thomas left Alabama for Penn State. His niece told me the one thing he really
worried about was Joe Paterno [football coach
1966-2006 (current), Pennsylvania State University] dying. No one man should
ever bear the responsibility of having to replace arguably the two greatest
coaches in the history of NCAA.
Whit Gibbons, Robert Haynes, and Joab L. Thomas
(1990) Poisonous plants and venomous animals of Alabama and adjoining states.
University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Blanche E. Dean, Amy Mason, and Joab L. Thomas (1973) Wild flowers of Alabama and
adjoining states. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Joab L. Thomas (1959) The Cyrillaceae.
Ph.D. Thesis, Biology Department, Harvard University, Cambridge,