July 19, 2012

It is with great sadness that our College announces the passing of Acting Chief Librarian and Chair of the Department of Library and Media Services, Professor Vanrea Thomas, a highly esteemed and long-time veteran of the College faculty, on Monday, July 16, 2012.   Her sudden loss has shaken the College community- she was a model of professional integrity and well-loved across the campus.  Professor Thomas was committed to providing top quality library services not only to the faculty, students, and staff of the College, but to community residents as well.   Her work enriched the academic mission of our College and created a lasting legacy of outreach, excellence, and courtesy.

A native of the Bahamas, Thomas’ tenure at Medgar Evers College began in 1993 as an Assistant Professor and Associate Librarian for the College’s Charles Evans Inniss Memorial Library. In this role, she oversaw Reader and Information Services.  From the beginning, Professor Thomas distinguished herself as a hard worker and knowledgeable librarian who brought a sense of mission to her work at the College.  Initially, her duties focused on planning, evaluating, and coordinating all operations for Reader and Information Services.  In time, those duties expanded to include oversight of all operations and activities for Access Services, References Services, Reserves (hard copy and electronic), Collection Maintenance, Student Information and Guidance Services, and Library Exhibitions/ Displays.  She played a vital role in spearheading the integration of innovative technologies into all library systems and in expanding the digital/electronic databases of the College library.  Her instructional talents were also evident in the valuable guidance she provided when assisting faculty and students with research or on  use of the library’s electronic databases and reference materials. Her capable leadership in the advancement of our library’s services and resources led to her appointment as the Acting Chief Librarian and Chair of the Department of Library and Media Services.

Professor Thomas’s service to the College was also demonstrated by her active involvement on  committees  such as the Library Technology Committee, which she chaired, the Library Resource Committee, the College-Wide Personnel and Budget Committee, the Committee on Recruitment, Admission and Retention, the Core Curriculum Committee, the Academic Standards and Regulation Committee, the Customer Service Committee and the Library Expansion Committee. She was equally committed to the University and served on The City University of New York’s (CUNY) Council of Chief Librarians, the Library Association of The City University of New York, the CUNY Libraries Public Service Committee and the CUNY Libraries Land Contact and Primary Contacts Committees.

Consistent dedication to professional development and networking across institutions were cornerstones of Professor Thomas’ leadership.  She participated in Harvard University’s Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians and The College of the Bahamas’ Advanced Management Program for Library Administrators. Her professional affiliations included membership in the American Library Association, the Academic Libraries of Brooklyn, the New York Librarians Black Caucus and the Metropolitan New York Library Council.  Professor Thomas also believed in community engagement and served on the Board of Trustees for the Center for African Development International (CADI), the Board of Education’s Queens County President’s Council, and as a member of ACORN.

Prior to her appointment at Medgar Evers College, Professor Thomas served as a Director of Library Services and a lecturer at The College of the Bahamas in Nassau, Bahamas. She was also appointed as the Head of Library Education at the University of the West Indies.  In addition to this experience, Professor Thomas  possessed strong educational credentials in the discipline of Library Sciences. She held a Masters of Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute, degrees in Library Instruction from Bahamas Teacher’s College and The University of the West Indies. She also enrolled in the doctoral studies program in Library and Information Studies at Long Island University. Professor Thomas’s love of reading stemmed in part from her B.A. in English from Florida Atlantic University and extended to other languages.  She had a reading knowledge of French, Spanish, German, Russian and Italian.

Professor Thomas was not only dedicated to the College and its  students, she was deeply committed to her family. Her six children, grandchildren and numerous relatives meant everything to her and she referenced them frequently in conversations with colleagues.  Her office always offered a hospitable respite from the demands of College life.  She welcomed trading personal anecdotes, recipes and book recommendations with colleagues who dropped by to chat.  Vanrea Thomas will be deeply missed at our College.  Our thoughts and sympathy are extended to her family and friends at this difficult time.