Smeal board creates scholarship in honor of Dean James B. Thomas

April 15, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Members of the Penn State Smeal College of Business Board of Visitors have created a scholarship to recognize the service of James B. Thomas, the John and Becky Surma dean of Smeal, who has announced his resignation from the deanship and return to the Smeal faculty pending the appointment of his successor.

The Smeal College Board of Visitors Trustee Scholarship in Honor of Dean James B. Thomas will support business students with financial need. So far, Board of Visitors members have contributed $70,000 toward the endowment, created through the University's Trustee Matching Scholarship Program.

The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program maximizes the impact of private giving while directing funds to students as quickly as possible, meeting the urgent need for scholarship support. In this groundbreaking philanthropic model, Penn State matches 5 percent of the total pledge or gift at the time a Trustee Scholarship is created, making funds available immediately for student awards. This University match, which is approximately equal to the endowment's annual spendable income, continues in perpetuity, doubling the support available for students with financial need.

The Thomas Scholarship is part of Smeal's efforts in the University's $2 billion fundraising campaign, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. Thomas has led the college through the first half of the campaign, helping to raise almost $47 million from private donors, corporations and foundations.

"Over the past five years, during some of the toughest times in both business and higher education, Jim has provided principled and visionary leadership of the highest order for Smeal, growing and advancing the college on so many fronts," said William Donan, chair of the Board of Visitors. "When he does depart the dean's office, this scholarship will be just a small piece of the legacy he leaves behind, but with his role as a champion of Smeal students with financial need, it's a perfect fit to bear his name."

Under Thomas' leadership, Smeal implemented a new strategic plan that focused the college's resources on one overarching goal: solidifying its position as one of the top public business schools in the nation. With an emphasis on four major themes -- delivering extraordinary education, conducting research with impact, building a dialogue with society and fostering a community with distinction -- Thomas' strategic vision included dozens of new initiatives and objectives to advance the college on several levels.

As part of this vision, Thomas led curricular restructurings in Smeal's undergraduate and MBA programs. He oversaw the addition of the master of professional studies in supply chain management and the master of accounting degree programs. He also directed a reorganization of the college's administration.

A mainstay of Thomas' tenure as dean has been his focus on promoting academic integrity. After the Smeal Honor Code originated in the MBA program, Thomas shepherded its implementation across all of the college's degree programs. He also worked with Smeal students and faculty to foster a culture of integrity as chair of Smeal's Academic Integrity Board.

Before becoming dean of Smeal in 2006, Thomas was the founding dean of Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology. He began his career in higher education at Smeal in 1987, starting as an assistant professor and eventually advancing to the position of senior associate dean.

He is the author or coauthor of more than 100 articles, book chapters, reviews and numerous presentations focusing on strategic management, organizational decision-making and information technology.

A 1974 graduate of Penn State with a bachelor's degree in political science, Thomas received a master's degree in government from Florida State University and a doctorate in strategic management from the University of Texas at Austin.

For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State's alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University's tradition of quality. The campaign's top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. For the Future is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State's history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014.

For information about making a contribution to the Thomas Scholarship or other gifts to Smeal, call 814-865-3497 or e-mail

  • James B. Thomas, John and Becky Surma dean of the Smeal College of Business.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 18, 2011