The impact of Henry Thomas III was not overlooked as the Springfield civic and education leader’s tenure with the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees came to an end.
Thomas and Maria Furman will be replaced by Robert Lewis, Jr., and Julie M. Ramon Gagliardi, according to an announcement by Governor Charlie Baker. The terms of Thomas and Furman expired after more than 10 years of service.
“As chairman, Henry was an ardent advocate for the university and the students it serves, and led our Board during a period of robust growth at UMass. The impact (of Thomas and Furman) will last for generations,” said Marty Meehan, president of the UMass system.
“Henry and Maria reflect the very best of our board and both used their knowledge and talents to ensure that UMass continued to offer a world-class and student-centered education while effectively managing through a challenging fiscal environment,” said Robert Manning, chairman of the 22-member Board of Trustees.
Thomas is president and CEO of the Urban League of Springfield. He joined the UMass Board of Trustees in 2007, and was appointed as chairman by Governor Deval Patrick five years later.
“UMass is a beacon of opportunity for thousands and thousands of people in this state. It provides promise, it provides hope, and it provides opportunity. I want to make sure that it remains a beacon that shines as brightly as it possibly can,‘’ Thomas said at the beginning of his chairmanship.
“Education is important to me because I have seen the difference that it makes in people’s lives.‘’
Advances during his tenure included the establishment of the UMass Center at Springfield in 2014. When the center was opened, Thomas hailed it as “the beginning of an important new chapter in the city of Springfield, as UMass steps forward in a purposeful way to provide academic programs in the heart of the city.”
The center offers attainable learning advancement opportunities in business, education, information security and nursing among other programs.
“(It provides) hope and the promise for a better future for the residents of Springfield and the area at large,” Thomas said.
Passionate about education and the UMass system, Thomas was unafraid to express himself. As head of a search committee for a new UMass Boston chancellor in 2018, Thomas sharply rebuked what he called “a small but vocal group” of faculty at that campus for their harsh assessments of three finalists.
Some of the faculty’s comments became public, which was especially upsetting to Thomas, and all three candidates withdrew from the process. The position was filled on an interim basis by Katherine Newman until February, when Marcelo Suárez-Orozco was named chancellor.
Lewis, Jr. is the founder and executive director of a nonprofit that combines athletic training and competition with education and career resources. Ramos Gagliardi is the First Vice President of Corporate Giving and Community Relations at BayCoast Bank.
Baker made it a point to give credit to Thomas and Furman.
“I am thankful for their service as trustees and for being an integral part of UMass’s continued future success,” the governor said.
The UMass Board of Trustees includes 17 members appointed by the governor. Five members are UMass students elected by the student bodies of each of the Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Medical School campuses.