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JU Professor Emerita of Art History honoree Nancy Thomas not your typical award winner

By Chelsea Wiggs

JU Communications Major

It’s not typical for part-time faculty to be granted emeritus status, but Nancy R. Thomas’ tenure at Jacksonville University is anything but typical.

The humanities professor was awarded the status of Professor Emerita of Art History by the University Board of Trustees to recognize her career of excellence and reflecting the connection she has had with JU since 1970.

JU Faculty Assembly Chair Janet Haavisto, left, presented humanties professor Nancy R. Thomas with Professor Emerita of Art History status.

Thomas accepted a position at JU as a full-time faculty member after graduate school and was eventually promoted to associate professor with tenure. During that time she met her husband, Roger N. Thomas, a JU alumnus serving in the U.S. Navy. She left in 1978 because of her husband’s naval career, but returned to Jacksonville with her family in 1990 following his retirement.

Thomas also returned to JU as an adjunct faculty member and has been one for 22 years. While emerita status is not usually granted to part-time faculty, Thomas’ significant time spent at JU proved her to be qualified.

Prof. Nancy Thomas, then Nancy Rhyne, teaching humanities at JU in the 1970s.

“I had no idea that anything like that was being discussed,” said Thomas, who was presented the honor by Janet Haavisto, JU professor of English and chair of the Faculty Assembly. “I was overwhelmed at the kindness of people who remembered that I had been full-time in the past who knew how much JU means to me.”

In addition to teaching a variety of courses for JU, she has worked with the Study Abroad program, served six years as president of JU’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, has been a board member and editor for the Southern Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences for 20 years and has presented her published works in the U.S. and overseas.

In December 2012 she traveled to Paris, where she presented an invited paper at the 14th International Aegean Bronze Age Symposium.

Associate Professor of History Eric Thomas (no relation to Nancy Thomas) initiated Nancy Thomas’ emerita status with a proposal on her behalf. Having known her for more than two decades through their involvement with Phi Kappa Phi, he said she deserved the recognition based on her excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.

“Even with her being officially part-time status for the recent decades, she had made the contributions in all three areas way beyond part-time status and was exactly the kind of person that should be recognized,” Eric Thomas said.

Thomas was honored at a Faculty Recognition Dinner, where she thanked her many JU supporters.

“I thanked many people who have helped me over the years, from my first scary days of teaching on,” she said. “The librarians, the counseling staff, the Accelerated Degree Program people and of course the faculty and administration that have helped me and my students immensely, and I thank them all again.”