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Thomas receives Dux Academicus Award

Loyola press release - January 23, 2012

School of Mass Communication professor Robert A. Thomas, Ph.D., was awarded Loyola University New Orleans’ top faculty honor, the 2011 Dux Academicus Award, on Friday, Jan. 20, at the 2012 Spring President’s Convocation for faculty and staff.

The award is the highest honor a professor can receive for excellence in teaching and scholarship. It recognizes a faculty member who “is able to impart the knowledge and wisdom of the humanities, sciences or the professions to students in a manner consistent with the unique philosophy of Loyola University New Orleans as a Jesuit institution of higher education.”

Thomas, a biologist who joined the faculty in 1996, was nominated by colleagues and friends for contributions to his field and his unwavering dedication to the university. He is the director of the Center for Environmental Communication and holds the chair in environmental communication. Following Hurricane Katrina, he served as the interm director for the School of Mass Communication until 2009.

"We are all so very proud of Bob and so pleased that he is being honored with this award. There is no one more deserving of this prestigious honor," said School of Mass Communication Director Sonya Duhé, Ph.D. "Bob's willingness to serve others embodies the true spirit of Loyola's Jesuit philosophy."

He was the founding director of the Louisiana Nature Center and is past president of the Association of Nature Center Administrators. Thomas received the top two honors accorded to nature center administrators: the Elsie Naumburg Award in 1983 and the Professional Leadership Award in 2001.

He was also named Conservation Educator of the Year in 1986 by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and was awarded the Margaret Douglas Medal for Conservation Education in 1994 by the Garden Club of America.

With a long-standing record of volunteerism and environmental activism, Thomas has served on a diverse array of boards, including the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the International Federation of Environmental Journalists.

Since the 2010 BP oil spill, Thomas joined the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s Expert Bureau to help improve Louisiana’s image nationally. He has appeared in countless news stories dedicated to the spill and has also led more than 200 post-Katrina recovery tours of the New Orleans area.

“I am truly and completely honored, and it’s something that I never imagined or dreamed that I would receive,” Thomas said. “I love the university very much and giving to the university is very easy because it gives so much back to individuals involved with it, as well as to the community.

“When you receive something like this it’s customary to say that you are just honored to be in the same group as the people before you,” Thomas continued. “There’s a reason for that – it’s absolutely true. This university has a wonderful faculty committed to educating generations of young people in a very powerful way. To think that you would be chosen out of that group is, to say the least, very humbling.”

Thomas describes himself as a proud Texan by birth but a New Orleanian by choice, having spent most of his life in Louisiana. He received his bachelor’s from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (formerly the University of Southwestern Louisiana), and his master’s and doctorate from Texas A&M University. He also served a post-doctoral fellowship in biochemistry at Louisiana State University Medical Center.

He has been married for 43 years to Paulette J. “Polly” Thomas, Ph.D., who teaches at the University of New Orleans. Together, they have three grown children, including Aimée K. Thomas, Ph.D., who is currently a visiting assistant professor of biology at Loyola.