Harry Thomas died October 22, 2004, after many years of ill health borne with characteristic gallantry and grace. Radiation treatments followed by major surgery for prostate cancer saddled him with permanent difficult side effects. The long-ago radiation probably caused the blood disorder that ended his life.
Thaaamas! Thaaamas! That was the sound of Jack Vandevate, with his unmistakable Rochester accent, trying to locate his assigned roommate way back in the fall of 1947 at the ole College on the Hill. And it was the first I had ever heard the name Thomas, Harry. As it turned out, Vandevate somehow got a private room for himself which left Harry in a single on the fourth floor of Morrow dormitory, where my room was next door to his. The next year we roomed together in Pratt and then again for our junior and senior years at Chi Phi fraternity. We got to know each other pretty well.
Harry was one of the quieter boys in our Class, but he had a marvelous sense of humor. At the slightest reading, seeing or hearing of something that struck his sense of humor there would be an immediate ear-to-ear grin accompanied by anywhere from a low throaty chuckle up to a loud guffaw, depending upon how hard his funny bone had been struck. He had a really great ability to recall jokes that had been told two or three years earlier. We would be shooting the bull with classmates when out of the blue Harry would say, “That reminds me of the story that Jackson Morse told us about his dog Tinker Belle. Remember that?” I had some vague recollection of the story, but Harry remembered it as if it were yesterday. That ability to recall what had been said or what he had read put him in great stead for those monstrous outside reading assignments given us by Prof. Packard in History I. He creamed that course. I barely sneaked through.
Harry was a deep thinker as well. I remember his raving about the outside reading assignments and especially the lectures given in Prof. Sterling P. Lamprecht’s philosophy course. I got so interested in Harry’s description of some of the discussions that I signed up for the course the next year. There is no question that Prof. Lamprecht was an inspiring lecturer, but regrettably some of the required reading was a bit beyond me.
After graduation in 1951 with a BA in economics, Harry served two years in the army finance corps before joining the corporate finance division of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was the SEC choice in 1957 to participate with twenty other civil service employees from diverse areas of government in the eighth annual junior management program. He earned an MBA at American Univ. while working as a security analyst at Equitable Life Insurance Co. and became assistant treasurer of the company in 1962. A move to New York to the private placement firm of Michelman & Hanf followed in 1965. He later joined State Planters Bank of Commerce and Trusts in Richmond, VA, to work in its investment area. In 1968, he was awarded the professional designation of chartered financial analyst. At that time he was among only 414 persons in the United States and Canada so designated. Harry remained active in the Richmond Society of Financial Analysts and was known for his mentoring and encouragement of his associates to pursue CFA studies. After promotion to investment officer of then United Virginia Bank, at one time he headed the Capitoline Investment Services division. He enjoyed managing portfolios for trusts and individuals, and having found his niche early, he decided to stay that course for the next twenty years.
Always active in church, Harry was a deacon and elder at National Presbyterian Church, Washington, and the same offices later at River Road Presbyterian Church in Richmond. Music was important in his private life. He studied voice and classical guitar as an adult, singing with the Richmond Choral Society as well as in his church choir. Family came first in his life and travel in Portugal (twenty five years of it!) a close second. He and Margaret married in May 1955, and they had two children: Betsy who now lives in Madison, NJ, and Jeff, a retired naval aviator in San Diego. At Harry’s memorial service, Jeff stated, “His last eighteen years consisted of one life-threatening problem after another. You could not tell this because his positive attitude and sense of humor were as strong as ever. While his body was under attack, Dad’s spirit was never broken, and it seemed to get stronger with every new challenge.” Harry’s daughter contributed this: “Dad did things, even serious things like dying, with a light heart. He modeled so much: a marriage in its fiftieth year, service to family, God and community, joy in music, exercise and working with his hands, and a career in finance. He modeled these things with ease and wit and grace. I was a girl with a great dad: athletic, fun, funny, and fair.”
Many will remember Harry’s quiet voice on the telephone, reminding us to send our contribution to the Alumni Fund, giving us a strong pitch about the needs of the Fund and the great work it does. I believe the College owes Harry a large bit of gratitude for the time he spent year after year on behalf of the Class of ’51. Harry was a dedicated alumnus, to be sure!
—Bob Minter ’51
"laughing together, loving each other, seeking adventure, relishing the company of friends"November 29, 2004
I sadly report the death of classmate Harry A. Thomas on October 22nd after a long illness. Harry was a highly respected security analyst and portfolio manager in commercial banking. He also studied classical guitar and performed in the Richmond Choral Society and as a soloist in his church choir. He is survived by his wife of nearly fifty years, Margaret, and a daughter, Elizabeth Uhlman, a son, Jeffrey, and six grandchildren. Harry will be greatly missed by his family, many friends, and his Amherst classmates. Should you wish to send a note to Margaret, her address is 708 West Drive Circle, Richmond, VA 23229.
Jeff Hartzell, recovering well from recent surgery, sends this report on the recent Homecoming Weekend:
"Homecoming 2004! Has there been a better one? Not in my memory or imagination. Start wherever you will. Weather? A Christmas card scene of snow cover Friday; then perfect late autumn sunshiny -weather for the game.
The Game? Williams seemed to me to dominate the first half but only led 3 - 0 at the break. Even so, "this was old Amherst's day," and at the end the score was Amherst 13, Williams 10. Area! cliff-hanging, nail-biting thriller!
Friends? Bushman, Cleminshaw, Hartzell, Holman, Longsworth, Walker, Williams — all et ux (Latin scholars ~ even lawyers — alert! What is the plural form of "ux?"). Singletons were Grover, Keydel, Phil Knowles, and Sexton.
Hobie did a great job of handling the dinner arrangements at The Lord Jeff, at which we were joined by the Class of 1954. President Tony Marx made a cameo courtesy call. This, together with his remarks at the morning Alumni Society meeting made us proud.
As the cliche goes, "It doesn't get much better than this." Best to all, Jeff"
An additional note: Phil Knowles told me it was so cold at the game that at the half several of our less hardy classmates moved to the Williams side so they could sit in the sun.
My best wishes for wonderful holidays and a good and healthy year in 2005.
David C. Fulton