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AAA Mourns Loss of Richard Thomas, Member Services Manager

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Richard Thomas, 1950-2014

We are sad to report that Richard Thomas, AAA Membership Manager, passed away Tuesday April 1, 2014. Richard served as our membership manager for 14 years, since joining AAA staff on March 31, 2000. He was 63.

Richard was the face of our Annual Meeting Career Center (previously named the Placement Center) for employers and job candidates. He developed the AAA online Career Center that is a valuable resource of anthropology job ads for both employers and job seekers. His work on the career center was something he was proud of and enjoyed doing.

Richard also was instrumental in streamlining the Membership Services Department over the years as we moved along with the rest of the world from the heavily paper driven processes to the cloud.

Richard_2011 Meeting_Free poster

Richard and the “Leave your Mark. Major in anthropology” poster at the 2011 Annual Meeting.

Richard was the voice of calm during our annual mayhem of the Annual Meeting abstract submission deadline, with around 5,000 individuals submitting papers and sessions, many during the last 48 hours before the deadline. He spent hours on the phone helping members, and always with a smile. One staff remarked about his having “the patience of Job” one year just before deadline when he fielded call after call needing assistance to register or help putting an abstract into the system. Richard whispered, “They’re all my best friends.”

Richard_2012 Meeting_Career Center

Richard working at the Annual Meeting Career Center in 2012 in San Francisco.

Richard was particularly proud of his “Save the Dates” reminder postcards for our annual meeting and the “Leave your mark. Major in Anthropology” footprint poster distributed to anthropology departments far and wide.

Richard also worked with numerous committees and groups. At various times over the years he staffed the Association Operations Committee, the Committee for Human Rights, the Student Assembly and most recently the Education Task Force. He was also involved with the formalization of AAA interest groups.

Richard graduated  from Brigham Young University summa cum laude with a BA in history. Prior to working for AAA he worked at the National Society of Professional Engineers and the Nature Conservancy. Richard had a love for the west coast and talked often of returning to California for his golden years.

Richard is survived by a partner of 36 years and two sisters. He will be remembered fondly by staff for his love of history and dry wit.

12 Responses

  1. I am very saddened to hear of Richard’s passing. AAA is a much better organization operationally because of his efforts over the years. He will be missed.

  2. I am saddened to hear today that Richard Thomas, AAA Manager of Membership Services, has passed away. On behalf of the over 12,000 members around the world whom Richard served with such dedication, and so well, I would like to extend my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. We will miss him terribly.
    Monica Heller, AAA President

  3. Richard was the “voice of calm” in the employment room too. He helped many of us navigate the stressful job search and interview process at the AAAs. He was of great assistance when I was looking for my first job many years ago, and more recently, in helping me advertise for a position in my department. I enjoyed seeing him at the meetings and catching up. This is a shock. He will be missed.

  4. Richard was such a unique and remarkable person. He loved his ‘precious neighborhood,’ all things British humor, a good political scandal, and relished the opportunity to dust off his German skills. He took great pride in his work and cared deeply for AAA members. I’d hoped to have more time with him, fascinating man that he was. This is a terrible loss for the many lives he touched.

  5. Deeply saddened by this news, Richard’s calmness in the face of chaos and ability to sort out complicated situations and find solutions at the drop of a hat was marvelous, and an important part of keeping the AAA going. And always with a smile and a chuckle. I can’t count how many times he’s helped me out, let alone the many others I’ve referred to him over the years. My condolences to all who have been graced by his presence.

  6. Very sorry to hear this news. I also had the opportunity to meet Richard on my own job search at the AAAs, a few years in a row of course. He was reliably a voice of reassurance and reason in a process in which these two characteristics are reliably lacking.

  7. Countless times Richard provided good advice or gave timely and accurate answers to puzzles we faced 2003-2010 as the Anthropology Education Committee got organized and ran its course. I’m grateful for the example he set and wish him and those nearest Happy Trails!

  8. This man was amazing at the meetings, tirelessly working in the bowels of the conference hotel ensuring that the many frustrated souls seeking employment could find clarity and order in the chaos. He helped me over the years as both a job seeker and later as a search committee member. RIP Richard.

  9. I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my dear former colleague at AAA. I remember with respect Richard’s tireless care and concern for AAA’s members, and I recall fondly his perennially positive outlook and always ready smile.

    Travel well along your new road, my friend. I will miss you.

  10. We are saddened deeply by the news of Richard Thomas passing. Our section, SACC, has always had a special identity, a national department for isolated community college anthropologists who knew how important our field was to the diverse public we represented. Some very special staff of the AAA felt this also, worked with our leadership with deep commitment and care, starting in my experience with David Givens, Kathleen Terry-Sharp, Patsy Evans, Suzanne Mattingly, and then, when we lost most of those special people, Richard Thomas came forward and was always there with his special sense of dedication. We honor your service, Richard, thank you.

  11. So sad to hear this news. Richard was an ardent supporter of students and was also influential in helping to launch the undergraduate student membership rate as well as the group rate for anthropology clubs. He was always eager to help with NASA or the Student Representatives Caucus and I spent many an annual meeting having breakfast with him. John and my thoughts are with his friends and family.

  12. I am sad to hear this. Richard was the calm in the storm of the annual meetings and helpful in helping ALLA increase its membership. He will be missed.

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