Education leader, Oswego alum honored with Sheldon Award

imageRichard Thomas was honored as a “teacher’s teacher” at SUNY Oswego’s Reunion Weekend with an award named for the college’s founder.

Richard Thomas was honored as a “teacher’s teacher” at SUNY Oswego’s Reunion Weekend with an award named for the college’s founder.

Thomas of the Class of 1968 received the Oswego Alumni Association Sheldon Award for Excellence in Education at Reunion 2004. This award is reserved for graduates of Oswego who best exemplify founder Edward Austin Sheldon’s ideals of teaching and administration.

Thomas, who began his career as a classroom teacher and served as a principal and superintendent of schools, is now the executive director of the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS), a post he has held for the past 14 years. As leader of the second-largest school leadership association in the country, with 6,800 members, Thomas has dedicated himself to fostering leadership in the state’s schools.

He was appointed to his post at a critical juncture in 1990. Membership had stagnated, education funding was declining and the public’s opinion of teachers and administrators was at a low point. Thomas took positive steps to turn these problems around, including establishing a liaison committee to open dialog with the Commissioner of Education. He launched a major initiative against violence in the schools and forged an alliance with the New York State United Teachers to raise sensitivity on the issue of civility in schools.

He is president and chief executive officer of the Magellan Foundation, which two years ago received a $7.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide educational opportunities for public and private school principals and superintendents. He has launched the New York State Blue Ribbon Commission on Youth Leadership to create a program for middle and secondary level students to develop their leadership abilities through service learning and character education.

He is chair of the National Executive Directors Association, representing school leader groups in all 50 states. Thomas is also an adjunct professor at several colleges, including SUNY Oswego and SUNY Albany.

“Oswego did more than fulfill its promise to me, it gave me the freedom to journey down many unexpected and rewarding paths,” Thomas said in accepting the award. “That is the goal of all educators. We provide the means of personal freedom to all children in our charge and we provide the substance of our collective freedom as a nation.”

(Posted: Jul 19, 2004)