R. Murray Thomas

Emeritus Professor and Dean R. Murray Thomas at an event on the UCSB campus in 2009 (photo by Nell Campbell)

UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School is saddened to share the news of the passing of Dr. R. Murray Thomas, professor emeritus and the first dean of the graduate school of education. Dr. Thomas passed away on November 4, 2016 in Paso Robles at the age of 95.

A brilliant teacher and scholar, Dr. Thomas joined the UCSB campus in 1961 as a visiting professor and became a tenured professor the following year. He served as the first Dean of what is now our Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, a position he held from 1964 to 1969. His visionary leadership of the school at its inception laid the foundation for what is today one of the best graduate education programs in the country. During his three decades of service, he taught classes on educational psychology and directed the program in international education. He retired as professor emeritus in the Department of Education in 1991.

Professor Thomas, who earned his doctorate from Stanford University, continued writing academic books, journal articles, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews well after he retired, publishing his final book, Roots of Haiti’s Vodou-Christian Faith (Praeger, 2014), two years ago. He authored more than 400 professional publications throughout his career, including 57 books for which he served as author, coauthor, or editor.

Thomas began his career in education as a high school teacher at Kamehameha Schools and Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu. He then transitioned to teaching at the college level – first at San Francisco State University, then State University of New York at Brockport, and later Padjadjaran University in Indonesia. He also conducted cultural research in American Samoa and Indonesia.