The Maroon

Mass Comm professor accepts Dux Academicus

MARY JAMESON Staff Writer

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Robert Thomas has a new addition to his collection of jarred turtles in formaldehyde, stacks of environmental books and maps of Louisiana on his office wall: the Dux Academicus award.

Each year Loyola recognizes one staff member “for excellence in teaching and scholarship. Recipients demonstrate an ability to impart knowledge and wisdom of the humanities, sciences, or the professions to students in a manner consistent with the unique philosophy of Loyola as a Jesuit institution of academic excellence.” It is the highest honor a faculty member can be given at Loyola, according to a January Loyola press release.

Colleagues nominated Thomas for the award for his contributions to the university and the environmental studies field.

Before teaching at Loyola, Thomas was the founding director of Louisiana Nature Center, where he worked for 16 years.

“I think that’s one of the things that makes me who I am. The fact that I have that kind of background communicating with the public has given me the opportunity to work with different communities, which means I understand how those communities work and can help them figure out ways to protect the environment,” Thomas said.

Thomas joined Loyola in 1996. Thomas is currently professor and director of the Center for Environmental Communication and chairman for Environmental Communication.

Thomas said he is committed to teaching students about the importance of the environment and how they can contribute to environmental solutions.

Wadner Pierre, mass communication junior and Maroon staff photographer , first met Thomas three years ago at a presentation and is in his Environmental Communications class this semester.

“I find him to be a respectable and humble man. He is someone who knows how to approach a situation and make people get involved in what matters to them. He deserves this award,” he said.

Thomas said working with students is of paramount importance.

“If you look at what a professor does on campus, being open and giving your time to student needs is what we’re all about. I’m on a mission to educate people about how to look at environmental issues in a more scholarly and practical way,” he said.

Thomas plans to put the money he received from the award toward some of his under-funded projects, specifically a documentary on the Mississippi River Gulf outlet.

“We are all so very proud of Bob and so pleased that he is being honored with this award. There is no one more deserving of this prestigious honor,” said Sonya Duhe, director of the School of Mass Communication. “Bob’s willingness to serve others embodies the true spirit of Loyola’s Jesuit philosophy.”

Aimee Thomas, Thomas’s daughter and a biology professor at Loyola, said she is also proud of her father.

“Loyola University has provided a platform that has allowed Dad to impart his wisdom, knowledge and passion on environmental issues to others who share his zest for making a difference in this region and around the world. He has the ability to pique the curiosity of any willing learner, even the uninterested. What an honor to be recognized for doing what you love,” she said.

Thomas said he is both honored and shocked to have received the award.

“It’s not something I ever thought about. It’s not something you can strive for,” he said. “It makes a person think deeply about what he or she is doing and consider how to improve what I do, because if it’s been recognized, then that it gives me the responsibility to be better at what I do.”

Mary Jameson can be reached at [email protected]

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Mass Comm professor accepts Dux Academicus