Jeremy Thomas was about to graduate from Northwestern State University several years ago and had a tough choice. Like many college students, he had to watch every dollar. He had an outstanding parking ticket that had to be settled before he could formally get his degree. The dilemma was, pay the ticket or pay for your cap and gown.
He knew a caring faculty member who solved his problem.
“I was working in the Creative and Performing Arts office and when I came in to work, (administrative assistant) Ms. Ladell Conley informed me that (CAPA director) Mr. (Bill) Brent wanted to see me,” said Thomas. “When I came in, he opened a drawer and pulled out the necessary cash for me to pay for it all. He simply said, ‘Now go take care of it.’ He never remembers that event, but I will never forget. My hope that in whatever position I hold, that I pass on that same dedication to our students and their success.”
Thomas was recently named provost at Oklahoma City Community College. He also serves the college as vice president for student affairs, and his expanded role as provost will allow Thomas to oversee both the student and academic operations of the college. Thomas will oversee the operations, programming and resource allocations for the college.
“Dr. Thomas has always had the best interests of our students top-of-mind,” said OCCC President Jerry Steward. “And now as provost, Dr. Thomas will be able to completely coordinate the faculty and student experiences as he oversees both Academic and Student Affairs. This is a significant step forward for everyone at OCCC. I believe the positive impact of this coordination will be felt immediately.”
Oklahoma City Community College enrolls over 17,000 students annually. Thousands more are served in non-credit classes and programs. The college has more than 60 fields of study and offers associate degrees, certifications and leadership opportunities.
Thomas earned a Bachelor of General Studies with a music minor in 1997. He was a trumpet player and was a member of the Spirit of Northwestern Marching Band, the NSU Jazz Orchestra, Pep Band and Concert Band along with membership in Kappa Kappa Psi, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and Pi Kappa Phi.
“I cannot brag enough about my experience at Northwestern or in the Spirit of Northwestern,” said Thomas. “I was very involved in band, the music organizations, and various other activities on campus. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was building a network of supporters and friends. That support and that drive to make a difference can be found in everything I do in higher education.”
Thomas said Brent and Conley along with NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio and Dean Dr. Sue Weaver along with the late President Dr. Randall J. Webb and late history faculty members Drs. James McCorkle and Marietta LeBreton had a major influence on him.
“I was not a good student in high school and probably a marginal one during my undergraduate years, but people saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself,” said Thomas. “They pushed me to do better, work harder and work hard for others. I take that approach now.”
Thomas said Brent has remained a constant positive influence in his life.
“Mr. Brent saw us as his ‘kids’ and took a personal interest in our development,” said Thomas. “I cannot recall the number of times I sat in his office and discussed my future and what I must do to make it happen. His love for his students is something I have attempted to model over the years.”
After earning his bachelor’s at NSU, Thomas was the National Chapter Field Representative for Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Fraternity. According to Thomas, this job “gave me a love for everything student related.”
He had the opportunity to return to Northwestern as the admissions coordinator in the Louisiana Scholars’ College, before moving to University College as an academic advisor and instructor. Thomas later earned a Master’s of Education from NSU, a Graduate Certificate in Academic Advising from Kansas State University and a Doctor of Education from Grambling State University.
“When I left Northwestern, I began my solid trajectory in administration from an academic advisor, to director, dean, vice president, and now provost,” said Thomas. “One thing that surprises most, is that I never planned on moving up the administrative ladder. My goal is to simply serve students. I learned along the way that I could affect a larger number of students in my new positions and that appealed to me.”