GREENVILLE — After graduating from Greenville High School in 1953, Jim Thomas lived in several states, but his heart remained with the community that raised him. In gratitude to his alma mater and in support of its students, Jim and his wife, Jan, have made their first donation to the Darke County Foundation for $100,000.
The Jan and James Thomas Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships to Greenville High School graduates pursuing degrees in engineering, education, healthcare and computer science.
“Greenville gave me a good start,” said Jim. “I wanted to pay back in a way that will do good for others for a long time.”
The Thomases have bequeathed all their assets to the foundation, which will result in a sizable endowment fund that provides thousands of dollars in scholarships every year in perpetuity.
The son of Charles and Rose Thomas, Jim said working at a young age taught him the values of discipline, organization and perseverance. By age 9, he was cleaning Ethel Booker’s Shop in Greenville and delivering newspapers, and he and his brother sold soft drinks to Nestle Company employees.
During high school, Jim worked at Vietor Houston Grocery when he wasn’t playing football, singing in Ms. Hill’s choir, performing in the winter musical, editing the sports section of the yearbook, or serving as class vice president. All along, Jim was rising through the ranks of Boy Scouts, eventually earning Eagle Scout status.
“This country will supply opportunity if you want to work for it,” said Jim.
Jim took his work ethic to the General Motors Institute in Michigan, where he spent 40 hours a week in class, served a co-op with Frigidaire in Dayton, and earned an engineering degree in 1958. After marrying Jan, a Ball State University graduate, Jim’s career with Corning Glass took the couple to West Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Texas. In 1972, Jim began a new job with Abbott Labs in Illinois, where he worked until his retirement in 1997.
The Thomases reside in Ocala, Florida, and spend summers in Eagle River, Wisconsin. They enjoy traveling throughout North America by way of Jim’s Cessna 210. Jim learned to fly at the Treaty City Airport in 1958.
Jim has been part of the “Angel Flight” crew that offers free transportation to ill patients and their families who need to travel long distances for medical care. He also flies to Greenville regularly to visit his brother, Jervis, stepmother, Lucille, and high school friends.
“Jim is a generous man,” said Lucille, 102, “and a wonderful friend to Greenville High School.”
GHS seniors in the class of 2016 will be eligible to apply for the Thomas scholarship beginning in January 2016 through the Darke County Foundation. Applications are due April 1. For questions, see the GHS guidance counselor.
The Darke County Foundation enriches the quality of life in Darke County by receiving, managing and distributing charitable gifts for the benefit of the community. For more information, call 937-548-4673 or visit www.darkecountyfoundation.org.