Harry K. Thomas, Jr., United States ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines, will deliver the Commencement Address and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during Loyola University Maryland’s 158th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 15, University President Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., has announced.
More than 1,600 baccalaureate and advanced degrees will be conferred during the Exercises, which begin at 11 a.m. at Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena. The ceremony marks the first “Loyola University Maryland” Commencement, as the University changed its designation from Loyola College in Maryland in September 2009.
“A career diplomat whose service has taken him from India to Zimbabwe and from Peru to Bangladesh, Mr. Thomas has achieved an extraordinary depth and breadth of global experience,” Fr. Linnane said. “His perspective and insights on the state of the world today and the opportunities and challenges created by our increasingly borderless international society make him an ideal person to address graduating students who are preparing to accept the added leadership responsibilities their attainments will bring.”
Appointed to his position late last year by U.S. President Barack Obama, Thomas previously served as the executive secretary of the Department of State and special assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2005-07. As the department’s crisis manager, he oversaw the evacuation of 15,000 Americans from Lebanon in 2006.
As ambassador to Bangladesh, a South Asian nation with a Muslim majority, from 2003-05, he supervised an embassy of 700 employees and a budget of more than $100 million. Earlier in his career, Thomas served as a director at the National Security Council, where he advised the president and national security advisor on South Asian issues, including those related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Thomas joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and has served in New Delhi, India; Harare, Zimbabwe; Kaduna, Nigeria; and Lima, Peru. His assignments have included senior watch officer, deputy director, and director of the State Department Operations Center; positions in the State Department’s 24-hour alerting, briefing, and crisis management office; special assistant to the undersecretary for political affairs; and staff assistant to the assistant secretary for African affairs.
In addition to English, Thomas speaks Spanish, Bangla, Hindi, and Tagalog. His awards include a Meritorious Honor Award for political reporting in Nigeria; Superior Honor Award for his work in bringing the Peace Corps to Zimbabwe; a Superior Honor Award for his role in the aftermath of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; a Group Superior Honor Award as director of the State Department Operations Center; the Arnold Raphel Award for leadership, motivation, and mentoring of colleagues; and the Distinguished Service Award.
A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross who pursued further study at Columbia University, Thomas is a member of the Holy Cross Board of Trustees. He was a member of the Board of Visitors of the National Defense University from 2007-09. He is married to Ericka O. Smith-Thomas, a musician. They have a daughter, Casey Merie.
Other honorees include:
Harry K. Thomas, Jr., U.S. ambassador to the Philippines - Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa
David L. Ferguson, ’77, Loyola trustee since 2002 and current vice-chairman; a partner in the venture capital firm Weston Presidio – Doctor of Commercial Science, honoris causa
Mary C. Mangione, MSA ‘52, former trustee of the Baltimore Opera Company, board member of the Association of Italian Matters, and member of the Mount Saint Agnes College Alumnae Association’s annual Sister Cleophas Costello Lecture committee; along with her late husband, Nicholas B. Mangione, established the Mangione Family Foundation, which provides philanthropic support to a wide variety of non-profit organizations in Baltimore – The President's Medal (awarded to cherished friends and benefactors for service to Loyola and/or the community)
John A. Palmucci, vice president for finance and treasurer, Loyola University Maryland, 1994-2010 – John Henry Newman Medal (recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves as exemplars of Catholic education).
Refugee Youth Project, an after-school program for refugee youth in the Baltimore metropolitan area; established in 2003 as part of Baltimore City Community College’s extensive array of refugee support programs – The Milch Award (recognizing superior contributions and achievement by an organization, typically one involved in service)
Hans R. Wilhelmsen, ’52, M.D., DDS, former Loyola trustee; served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1956-67; now retired from plastic surgery practice at St. Joseph’s Medical Center – The Carroll Medal (recognizes distinguished alumni for noteworthy and meritorious service on behalf of the University)
Additional information on Loyola’s 158th Commencement Exercises can be found at www.loyola.edu/commencement.
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