Emeritus and Retired Faculty and Staff Association

Robert "Bob" Thomas, PhD


Department of Biology
Deceased: 2022

Through his extensive research, enthusiastic teaching, and prodigious mentoring of students, Robert “Bob” Thomas epitomized to the highest degree the caring and committed University professor.

Over his distinguished 40-year career as a biology faculty member, Thomas balanced his responsibilities to great success. As a scholar, Thomas published 48 papers in peer-reviewed journals, roughly half of which dealt with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. He became a nationally recognized expert on the impact of such disasters on marine animals. As a teacher, he drew raves from his students for his preparation, commitment, and enthusiasm, which was demonstrated by his ever-present smile. As an advisor, Thomas assisted approximately 100 Chico State students to gain admission to medical school, and served as faculty advisor for the Pre-Med Association for 13 years. From 2000 to 2006, 42 of his students entered MD, PhD, or other terminal degree programs. As a tribute to him, Chico State alumni, many of them physicians, established the Robert E. Thomas Merit Award for graduating seniors pursuing an advanced science degree.

In order to do research on the Exxon Valdez spill, Thomas traveled to Alaska during 30 summers. His work was supported by numerous funders, including 10 grants from the national Marine Fisheries Service, six grants from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees Council, and additional support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Thomas was the recipient of a number of honors during his tenure on campus. He received the Outstanding Professor Award in 1983 and in 1984, and the Outstanding Teacher Award in 2006. He was a charter recipient of the University Professional Achievement Honors in 1981, and received the award again in 1986 and 1994. He also received the Charles Y. Conkle Annual Scientific Publication Award presented by NOAA in 1984.

Thomas entered college following discharge from the US Army and earned his BS, MS, and PhD degrees from Kent State University.

Portrait of Robert "Bob" Thomas, PhD