When University of West Georgia staff member Alan Thomas recently lost his battle with COVID-19, the shockwave was felt throughout the university community. Now, Thomas has joined his family as an alumnus of the institution, earning a posthumous degree at UWG’s Spring Commencement.
Furthermore, through the Alan Thomas Endowed Scholarship, Thomas’ family has ensured his legacy of care and commitment to UWG and its students will continue to make a positive impact. Thomas’ family has a rich history at UWG, with both of his sons and wife, Tammy, being alumni. Tammy said Alan always regretted not finishing college when he was younger and had been working toward his degree for the last few years.
“UWG holds such a special place in our hearts as all of our accumulated degrees have been received from there,” Thomas said. “When I learned recently that he was going to receive his degree posthumously, I was brought to tears. He worked so hard the last several years to complete the coursework required, and it's so wonderful that his hard work didn't go to waste. The boys and I cannot wait to accept this in his honor. Our family has been completely humbled by the recognition.”
Upon his passing, Thomas’ wife sought to create an endowment at UWG in his honor so his legacy of giving back could live on through helping students succeed. This Friday, the Alan Thomas Memorial Golf Tournament will be held, with all proceeds going directly to the scholarship fund.
“I knew I wanted to do this, but I wasn’t sure how much funding I could get together,” she said of the scholarship, which will be awarded annually to a Central High School athlete who chooses to attend UWG. “It seems like everyone we knew wanted to do something to raise money to bolster the scholarship. It’s just been amazing how many people stepped up to make this possible.”
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Thomas lived in Carrollton from the age of 2 until his recent passing. In 1984, he graduated from Central High, where his enduring love of football was born. He had many successes in the sport, including being named most valuable player his senior year.
Tammy said Alan’s passion for football extended to the West Georgia Wolves, and he attended every game possible.
“He loved the Wolves,” she said. “He rarely missed a football game, and he tailgated and enjoyed every second of it.”
Following high school, Thomas began his higher education journey at the University of West Georgia (then West Georgia College), becoming a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and earning the nickname “Country” because of his strong Southern accent. During his time at college, Thomas met the love of his life, Tammy, during a bowling class that was a physical education element of their degree programs.
“He thought highly of his bowling skills and was very loud about it,” Tammy recalled fondly. “That’s the funny kind of guy he was. He caught my eyes and ears.”
While attending college, Thomas worked at Flowers Foods in Atlanta, where his father worked before him. In 1987, he left West Georgia to attend the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas, where he received a degree in baking science technology. When he returned to Georgia, he became a supervisor at Flowers and married Tammy, eventually having two sons, Burton and Jarrett, together.
As his sons grew up and demonstrated a natural affinity for sports – both attending UWG and becoming local coaches and teachers – Thomas decided he wanted to be closer to them so he would never miss a moment. He started his own business and eventually worked with an architecture firm, helping in the construction of the Carroll County Courthouse.
“Alan was a dad who didn’t want to miss a thing – and he didn’t,” Tammy said. “The boys both played football and wrestled, and that took a lot of time, but Alan was always there. He was their biggest fan.”
Once the courthouse was complete, Thomas began a new career at UWG, where he became manager of the logistics team in Housing and Residence Life (HRL), remaining in the position for the last decade of his life. While employed at the university, Thomas began working on another degree and had just found out he reached senior status a couple of weeks before his life was cut short.
Thomas’ devotion to the UWG community was well-known, revered and deeply appreciated. He never met a stranger, and his magnetic personality made him one the most popular and beloved people on campus among employees and students alike.
“Everybody knew him, and everybody loved him,” Tammy said. “Since he passed, it has become very eye-opening to me how many lives he touched and reached just with his smile and soul full of joy. Nobody ever saw Alan in a bad mood; he was always happy. He certainly left the world better than he found it, and he would want us to live our lives doing the same.”
Contributions to the Alan Thomas Endowed Scholarship can be made online. For more information about how you can support UWG students through an endowment, scholarship or annual giving, visit the UWG Give West page.