The Mary B. Thomas Award

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Mary B. Thomas Award

The Mary B. Thomas Award for Commitment to Otterbein was established by President Kathy A. Krendl and the University’s Board of Trustees to help recognize the remarkable commitment of Otterbein investors to and for the University.

Recipients of the Mary B. Thomas Award are recognized for their philanthropic leadership, service and commitment to advance Otterbein’s mission. Their contributions—offered through time, treasure or talent—will be known for providing significant and lasting change that positively impacts the University and its students, faculty and staff. 

The award’s namesake, Mary Burnham Thomas ’28 (1907-1999), is fondly remembered and appreciated for her enduring loyalty and service to Otterbein University. Mary was a donor to the institution ever since the Development Board was formed in 1948. A member of the President’s Club, she participated in many capital campaigns. She honored the institution with a $6.3 million estate gift. During her tenure as a member of the Otterbein Board of Trustees from 1960 to 1979, she served as secretary of the Board and as a member of the Executive Committee.

In 1977, Mary was named the “Woman of the Year” by the Westerville Otterbein Women’s Club for her “unselfish dedication and loyalty to Otterbein.” In 1978, the Otterbein Alumni Association awarded her the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her extraordinary service to her alma mater, her church and her community.

Her legacy of dedication to Otterbein and its students lives on today through The Thomas Academic Excellence Series which she endowed in 1994 in honor of her parents, Fred N. and Emma B. Thomas. 

The Series is intended to create intellectual excitement and strengthen bonds on campus by providing a shared academic experience for freshmen through the Common Book, regarded as one of Otterbein’s exceptional academic programs. Each year a book is selected for entering students to read, discuss and use in their Integrative Studies courses. The endowment also provides funds to bring the Common Book authors, including Gus Lee (China Boy), Sharyn McCrumb (She Walks These Hills), Anthony Grooms (Bombingham), Tracy Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains) and most recently Rebecca Skloot (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) to campus every fall to meet with students and give a public convocation. 

The impact of her leadership will continue to touch the lives of Otterbein students, faculty and staff in future generations.

Crafting the Award

The Mary B. Thomas Award is the highest honor Otterbein bestows upon its community. Those who are chosen to receive this prestigious award have elevated Otterbein with their transformational leadership and commitment. Crafted by Otterbein faculty member and artist, Don Austin, the award was designed to reflect the spirit of those that receive it.

The award is hand-carved from Maple, Cherry and Black Walnut trees from Ohio.  The wing radiates from a strong base that is encircled by an "O." Also at the base, an Amelia Earhart quote that reads, "You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky." The wing represents the lift of their generosity. The base offers a solid foundation, much like the loyal support and strength of these leaders. The quote is symbolic of a new perspective and the vision of what could be, as only these leaders could predict.

Each award, like its recipient is distinctly unique, its quality reflected in the grain and when well cared for, its ability to endure.  Thanks to the service, contribution and care of the Mary B. Thomas Award winners, Otterbein University's excellence will endure for generations to come.

About the Mary B Thomas Award Recipients 

2015: John & Susie King
John King ‘68 and his wife Susie understand the transformational effect that the good work made possible by their philanthropy can have on the lives of young people and others in need -- and they want to do all they can to support such critically important endeavors. Continue Reading >>

2014: Bill & Helen LeMay
The LeMays are among Otterbein’s most generous donors, having given to every major campaign taking place during their lifetime. The LeMays’ philanthropic leadership, service and commitment throughout a 55-year span of giving has truly advanced Otterbein’s mission and leaves a legacy of lasting impact for future generations. Continue Reading >>

2012: Vernon L. Pack
Perhaps it is that jovial spirit, in addition to his distinctive voice, his rich sense of humor, his generosity to worthy causes and his computer-like memory for historical facts that make it impossible for those who have met Vernon Pack to ever forget him. Continue Reading >>

2011: Vida S. Clements Foundation
As the Clements’ carillon in Towers Hall tolls the hours of the day on campus, the Otterbein community is forever reminded of the constant love, generosity and support shared by Frank Orville ’1896 and Vida Shauck ’1901 Clements. Continue Reading >>

2011: Ernest G. and Neva Fritsche
The Otterbein University Department of Theatre and Dance has provided invaluable experiences for students and faculty both on and off stage. Dr. Ernest G. ’38 and Neva Fritsche have been instrumental in making those opportunities possible for students and faculty, as well as the patrons who enjoy the performances. Continue Reading >>

2011: Edwin and Marilou Roush
Otterbein University’s unparalleled friendship with Edwin “Dubbs” ’47 and Marilou Harold ’45 Roush has spanned for more than 50 years. The Roushes’ loyalty and their philanthropy to the University will be felt by the Otterbein community and its friends forever. Continue Reading >>

Mary B Thomas Award Seal

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The Division of Institutional Advancement is located in Howard House at 131 W. Park St.

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Contact Donor Recognition 
Cathy Carson, Director of Donor Relations & Stewardship
p/ 614.823.1261