Entering Mackenzie Chown J block on the third floor, the mark Paul Thomas has made on Brock is immediately evident.
In a large display case is a computer museum, with artifacts ranging from a 1964 PDP-8 to a 3.5-inch floppy disk. The museum is just one small part of a legacy left by the founding chair of Brock’s Department of Computer Sciences, who died on Aug. 2 at the age of 84.
Thomas came to Brock from the University of Windsor in 1975 to help found a department around what was then a fairly new discipline. One of his first hires was Dave Hughes, who came to Brock as a young academic in 1978.
“He was a guiding force for all of us,” said Hughes, who now chairs the department. “I came fresh with a PhD and he was a mentor to me.”
The department benefited from Thomas’ experience, Hughes said. It began with only two faculty – Thomas and Morris Cohen – and eventually grew to what it is today, which is a department with undergraduate and graduate programs and 11 faculty. Thomas’ experience included work at the University of Glasgow, where he built the first Scottish-built computer, the Solidac.
He also “had a dedication to teaching that helped frame the Computer Science department’s commitment to teaching excellence,” Hughes said.
Jon Radue, a Computer Sciences professor, taught with Thomas from 1983 until the founding chair retired in 1990. Thomas worked hard and treated his colleagues well, Radue said.
When Radue moved from South Africa to St. Catharines in 1983, Thomas and his wife Mary helped Radue get acquainted with the region and the country, he said.
“He was an old-fashioned gentleman and a friend.”
Thomas was married to Mary for 56 years. He was also a loving father to Christopher and his wife Kathy of Rochester, NY, Paul Thomas and his wife Karin de Vries of London and Shelagh Thomas and her husband Fernando Rougerio of Plano, Texas. He was a proud grandfather of Laura and her husband Erik Telford of Austin, Texas, Kendra de Vries-Thomas and Shea de Vries-Thomas, both of London and his great-granddaughter Eliza Telford of Austin, Texas.
Memorial donations are being made to the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind). Online condolences and donations are available through mcfarlane-roberts.ca.