Robert Jay Thomas
March 30, 1930 – September 24, 2021
On Friday, September 24th, 2021, Robert J. (Bob) Thomas PhD passed away from natural causes at 91.5 years old while surrounded by family.
He was born March 30, 1930. A long-time cancer survivor, an educator, and a collector of knowledge throughout his life, he was preceded in death by his wife of almost 60 years Doris Ruth Thomas. Surviving are son, Andrew Thomas (wife Kathi), and daughter, Sharon Williams - grandchildren Heather Thomas (husband Kyle), Brian Williams (wife Liz), Dustin Thomas (wife Ashley), and Derek Thomas - and great grandchildren Jordan Thomas, Jack Thomas, and Asher Williams. Also preceding him in death were his parents Mildred Pearl Robinson Thomas and Jay Clyde Thomas.
Degrees include: BA Physics, Oberlin 1952; MS Public Health (Recreation), Indiana Univ 1954; MS Physics, Univ. of Ill. 1958; PhD Mathematics (Related to Computer Science), Univ. of Ill. 1964; Professional CDP (Certificate in Data Processing).
Bob taught at DePauw University for 33 years, first in pre-engineering and mathematics. Having taught a course in computer science before DePauw even had a computer, the National Science Foundation paid for 60% of DePauw’s first computer (an IBM 1620), with the stipulation that he be made the director of the computer center. Gradually he developed a minor in computer science within the math department and a computational math major. He was the sole professor for the first few Computer Science courses offered by DePauw and had the distinction of being the only Professor of both Mathematics AND Computer Science. A life-long learner and educator at heart, he continued to design and teach new courses. He prepared for a separate C.S. Department, which was finalized right after he retired.
As part of the US Army during the Korean War, picking up on his physics degrees and Spanish ability (taught to him by his mom) he received individual orders from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, sending him to the Panama Canal Zone, Artillery Div. They needed him to design, write and teach a course, in Spanish, for the Latin American Army Officers on computer controlled anti-aircraft artillery operations.
He was a lifelong international folk dancer (where he and his wife met). He taught folk dancing at Indiana University, Purdue University, and DePauw University as well as with the Girl Scouts. He was a regular square dancer on the WTTV Ch 4 Saturday night Western show.
He was a member and Elder of the Presbyterian Church of Greencastle. He was a member of Mensa, Triple Nine (99.9th percentile on selected intelligence tests), Indiana Plant and Wildlife Society, Mathematical Association of America, ACM, ICLU, and many other non-profit organizations, and he also served on the boards of many of them.
Hobbies included chess, duplicate bridge, road rallies, philately, archery, photography, and fencing. He was taught piano by his grandmother and wrote numerous copyrighted musical compositions. He also wrote many copyrighted haikus and poems.
In lieu of flowers, Bob and his family ask that contributions be made to The DePauw Computer Science Founders Fund for Excellence, the American Cancer Society, or to the Greencastle Presbyterian Church. Visitation will be 12-2 Saturday, October 2 at Bittles and Hurt Funeral Home, with military honors and services starting at 2:00 pm with Wes Kendall officiating.
To help protect Bob’s great-grandchildren, masks are required. Please practice social distancing and refrain from hugs.
Burial of the cremains of Doris and Bob at Forest Hill Cemetery will be announced on the funeral home website when arranged.
Memories may be shared with the family at www.BittlesandHurt.com
DePauw Computer Science Founders Fund: Development Office DePauw University 201 E seminary St. Greencastle, In 46135 Checks made out to: "DePauw University" with the notation "Computer Science Founders Fund" in the memo area:
American Cancer Society Online: (click here) Phone: 1-800-277-2345
Greencastle Presbyterian Church PO Box 512 Greencastle, IN 46135
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Robert Jay Thomas
October 6, 2021
I remember Dr. and Mrs. Thomas teaching folk dancing to my Brownie and Junior Girl Scout troops from around 1965-1968. They were both always smiling and passionate about their dancing. They were so patient with us, as we were in third to sixth grade. Their presence in my life and my friendship with their daughter, Sharon, were wonderful gifts to me. They were so accepting of other people. They always made me feel welcome at their dance sessions and in their home. My heart is with the Thomas family. May God send you His comforting love during your time of loss.
Martha Jean Baker
September 29, 2021
My friend Bob was a special person, filled with kindness and understanding. He spent his life, as I knew him, always seeking and experimenting things that are important to life. He would seek interesting things to explore and he was always there as a warm friend, with his loving partner Doris!
September 28, 2021
I remember Mr. Thomas when I worked at DePauw. I worked in Roy O. West Library, and sometimes in the academic quad and Julian Math and Science buildings. While working in those buildings I would sometimes ask the staff in the offices for the letters or envelopes that were they throwing away. Mr. Thomas overheard me one day, and we got to talking about collecting stamps. I found him to be a wealth of knowledge and full of encouragement to keep collecting. Those words from him; has kept me collecting instead of getting rid of an enjoyable hobby. I offer my sincere condolences and prayers for the family for the loss of a good man. God bless.
September 28, 2021
I have many memories of your dad. He was a member of the DePauw Duplicate Bridge Club for many years. My husband, Fred and I were directors and players for several years and enjoyed the times you dad played. He was a very unique and kind gentleman.
You have my deepest sympathy at this time. May the memories you have give you much comfort.