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Jack Ward Thomas


Jack Ward Thomas (‘69 MS)

Jack Ward Thomas graduated from West Virginia University in 1969 with a master’s degree in wildlife management. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1957 from Texas A&M University and a Ph.D. in forestry from the University of Massachusetts in 1974.

Thomas, who served as chief of the U.S. Forest Service, came to Morgantown in 1966 to begin his nearly 30-year career with the agency. At that time he had already served eleven years as a wildlife biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency and published over 100 papers in scientific journals.

After completing his graduate degree, he moved to Amherst, Mass., with the U.S. Forest Service where he initiated the Urban Forestry Program, now a major part of Service objectives. In addition, he completed his doctoral degree and initiated Service research on neo-tropical migrant songbirds.

He relocated to the Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service in La Grande, Ore., in 1973 where he held several positions before being named chief research wildlife biologist and project leader in 1978.

On December 1, 1993, Thomas was named chief of the U.S. Forest Service by President Bill Clinton, where he was responsible for 40,000 employees and administering the 210 acre National Forest System with 156 national forests and 19 grasslands in 44 states.

He served on many national committees including the Interagency Scientific Committee to Address the Conservation of the Northern Spotted Owl and the Forest Ecosystem Management Team.

Thomas authored more than 250 scientific papers and several award-winning books on elk, deer and turkey biology, wildlife disease, wildlife habitat, northern spotted owl management and land-use planning. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Forestry and as associate editor of the Western journal of Forestry Landscape and Urban Planning.

He has completed hundreds of technical presentations and lectureships at numerous universities throughout the world including the University of Warsaw, Forestry Institute of India, University of Calgary and West Virginia University. In addition, he has served as an adjunct professor at six universities and has worked on several international projects in India, Pakistan and Canada.

Thomas has been recognized by many organizations including the National Wildlife Federation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Giraffe Society, Fly Rod and Reel magazine, Choice magazine and Gulf Oil.

His many awards include: the Aldo Leopold Medal from the Wildlife Society, its highest and most prestigious honor; the General Chuck Yeager Award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and Outstanding Alumnus Award from the WVU College of Agriculture and Forestry’s Division of Forestry Alumni Association.