Tom E. Thomas III was born to a U.S. military family in Nuremberg, Germany, and moved to Lawton-Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1952. He attended Lawton Public Schools and Cameron Junior College before joining the Oklahoma National Guard in 1970. He earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational and adult education from Oklahoma State University in 1972.
After earning his bachelor’s degree, Thomas went to work for the Oklahoma Department of Vocational-Technical Education, now the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, in 1972 as an itinerant instructor of computer graphics, teaching short courses at 13 colleges throughout the state. He worked for the Technical Education Division and after his first year of instruction, assisted resident collegiate instructors to continue delivery of instruction via the Mobile Computer Graphics Lab while he transferred to the Research, Planning and Evaluation Division. He worked there as a research assistant while pursuing graduate degrees at OSU. He earned a master’s degree in educational administration in 1974 and a Doctor of Education degree in higher education administration in 1976.
After earning a doctorate, he left ODVTE to pursue a variety of jobs unrelated to education to broaden his occupational experiences. After a year, he returned to ODVTE as state planner, a position he held until 1986 when he returned to his hometown to work for Great Plains Vo-Tech. At Great Plains, Thomas worked in several administrative positions, retiring in 2016 as superintendent. He was involved with developing several innovative programs/services, including SOCRE, a successful drop-out recovery program, and the Economic Development Center, which provides an array of client-based programs, corporate training and business incubation.
During his time at ODCTE and Great Plains, Thomas was involved in many statewide projects, including defining program performance outcomes and crafting an equitable state funding formula for technology centers. While at Great Plains, he also served as adjunct faculty for Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses at Altus Air Force Base and Fort Sill.
He served as a board member of the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce, the Lawton-Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation, the Private Industry Council and Workforce Development Board of the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments and the Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition and served on Gov. Mary Fallin’s Education Advisory Committee. After retirement, he served as interim president of the Lawton-Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation for a year.
Thomas received the Francis Tuttle Career Excellence Award in 2015 for a life of CareerTech service and leadership.
Tom and his wife, Susie, have two children, Sarah and Tom IV.
Dr. Tom Thomas III was inducted into the CareerTech Hall of Fame in 2017.