John R. Thomas

Rev. John R. Thomas '42

1989 Distinguished Alumnus Award

Rev. John R. Thomas '42 spent his career as a pastor, a chaplain and as a teacher to pastors. A native of Beloit, Wis., Thomas planned originally to be an accountant but became interested in the clergy when he attended a church camp in Green Lake during his youth.  
Thomas’s commitment and persistence was instrumental in elevating institutional chaplaincy and pastoral counseling. He worked in various settings including the U.S. Navy and hospitals such as Elgin State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Elgin, Ill., Mendota Mental Health Institute and University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, Wis., Cook County Hospital and University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, Ill., and Austin State Hospital in Austin, Texas. He also served as a minister at Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison. Over the years, Thomas trained more than 400 seminary students and clergy.

Thomas was active in the National Association for Clinical Pastoral Education which helps to prepare students for the chaplaincy.  He served as the organization’s president for two years and was chairman of its history committee.  He also helped to organize the Office of Pastoral Services in Wisconsin, a confidential counseling service for clergy and their families, and he helped form the Presbyterian Association for Specialized Pastoral Ministries. 

John graduated from Carroll in 1942 majoring in philosophy and psychology. He was active as a student as a member of the Delta Rho Upsilon fraternity, the tennis team and the Carroll Players. Among other things, Rev. Thomas has been honored with the Anton Boisen Award by the Association of Mental Health Clergy, the William Norvell Award by the Office of Pastoral Services of the Wisconsin Conferences of Churches, and the Professional Services Award of the College of Chaplains of the American Protestant Health Association.   

Rev. Thomas died in November 2008 at the age of 90.

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