Trumpet Solo: Q&A with Dr. Dave Thomas

By Josh Smith, Contributing Writer

1. When and how did your passion for the study of English and literature surface? 

As early as my grade school years at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Burgettstown, PA, I enjoyed reading and writing.  I think that I had read every book that my elementary school had in its library and then some.  I mostly enjoyed reading biographies, history, fiction, and poetry.  Also, I enjoyed writing: I wrote many silly stories to entertain my classmates–but mostly to catch Salli Froats’s attention, and I wrote some love poems and some limericks.  Sister Bernadine angrily wrested away some of my bawdy limericks and gave me detention—which was served in our library.  “Oh, please don’t throw me in the briar patch!”  And in the third grade, we began diagramming sentences on the blackboard, and I saw this type of “work” to be a word-game, and I constantly volunteered to go to the board.

2. Did you always want to become a professor? Why did you become a professor? 

In grade school, of course, I did not know what a college professor was or did; however, I did think that it would be both fun and rewarding to be a teacher. I enjoyed the classroom atmosphere, and I liked doing homework.  And then one day, I realized that teachers did not work a twelve-month schedule—with summers and holidays off.  At the time, I could not think of a better occupation—except for being a major league baseball player.  Then later, when I realized that college professors had even more time off during the year than elementary and secondary teachers as well as fewer classes per term, I knew that college teaching would suffice nicely as a profession, as such would facilitate my love for the classroom as well as my desire for free time—especially during the summer months.  When I first attended West Liberty State College in the early-seventies, a few professors (Art Barbeau, Jack Harris, Jack Hattman, and Bob Sykes) also inspired me to teach on the collegiate level.

3. What are some of your favorite memories from your time at WLU? 

My favorite memories of WLSC/WLU, involve my interactions with students, staff, and faculty. As both a fraternity (Theta Xi) and sorority advisor (Chi Omega) at one time or another, I was fairly active in extra-curricular activities both on- and off-campus with students, and these many activities continued until my later years at West Liberty.  Moreover, I attended most of the Homecoming celebrations (all but two) from 1972 forward, mostly because I could socialize with alumni, students, staff, and faculty.  I fondly remember a number of field trips and camping outings with students. I also enjoyed being named Professor of the Year four different times, as this award was given from the students.  Most recently (2013), I was awarded a $24, 700 grant from the REAP program through the WV DEP in order to kick-start WLU’s recycling program, and that, too, is a good memory.  But, most significantly, my meeting many life-long friends, fiancees, and wives will remain among my most precious memories.

4. What are some of your plans for the future? 

My future plans include continuing to write, doing some painting around the house, travelling, having a Victoria Secret’s model sleepover, running the bulls in Pamplona, and selling antiques at my wife’s shop in Moundsville—if I survive the sleepover and the bull-running!

5. If there’s one thing you’d want your former students/faculty members to remember you by, what would that be?

What I would like the WLU community to remember most about me would be a couple of things. One would be that I was a good teacher who was a fair grader—not easy, but fair.  I would also like to be remembered as being friendly and approachable—about both school-related and personal matters.  I believe I made an extra effort to assist those in need—whether for tutoring, advice, money, or just shootin’-the-shit.  Another would be that because teaching and learning can be fun, I tried to make my classes fun.  Student evaluations most often confirmed this aspect of my classes.  Additionally, I would like to be remembered as someone who believed that it was necessary to stand up for basic rights.  As an advisor and a colleague, during my thirty-one-year tenure, I advocated for dozens in judicial hearings, termination hearings, settlements, grievances, etc.  While it was sometimes uncomfortable to stand up against a seeming injustice, it was necessary to do so.  And in being an advocate for others, as well as standing up for what I believed was right (as in my own grievances), I think that I taught/modeled a life-skill that was significant and, at the same time, gave some comfort to those who felt wronged in some way or another—whether in winning or losing efforts.  In an age in which we have elected a bully-president, standing up and speaking out for rights will be requisite.

But most of all, what I would like others to remember about me is that although my methods and practices were not always conventional or popular, “I did it my way,” and “that has made all of the difference.”

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