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Donna Thomas Named Permanent Director of UT's Thornton Center
Thornton Center Director Donna Thomas

Thornton Center Director Donna Thomas

June 16, 2011


KNOXVILLE -- Donna Thomas, who has worked with University of Tennessee Athletics for twenty-one years and has served as interim director of UT Knoxville's Thornton Athletics Student Life Center for six months, has been named as the center's permanent director.

The Thornton Center provides academic support, educational programs and a learning environment in which student-athletes have the opportunity to achieve their academic and personal goals.

"Donna has worked hard during the past six months to make some important changes at the Thornton Center and to strengthen the bridge between academics and athletics," said Susan Martin, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. "I'm pleased that she'll be permanently taking the reins to ensure the Thornton Center continues to be a positive influence on the lives of our student-athletes."

In the past six months as interim director, Thomas restructured and reorganized the Thornton Center staff, added new programming and services for the student-athletes, and began updating the facility. She spent a great deal of time speaking to groups across campus to learn more about academic programs while sharing insight on the requirements for students who represent Tennessee in twenty sports.

In addition to her new duties of overseeing the center, Thomas will continue to maintain her role as chief operating officer for the Lady Vols while Joan Cronan assumes the duties of interim vice-chancellor/director of athletics.

While at UT, Thomas has been responsible for numerous aspects of the women's athletics department, some of which include oversight of facility construction and renovation, managing the Lady Vols' portion of the adidas contract, development and implementation of department policies and proceduresm, and oversight of the scheduling of competition for all sports. She is the department liaison to the campus, serving as a member of multiple campus committees.

In July 2011, Thomas will complete a two-year term as co-chair of UT Knoxville's Council on Diversity and Interculturalism. She recently served as a member of the search committee for the assistant dean and director of undergraduate admissions, and she was the department liaison to the Thornton Center for Academics and Student Life.

At the request of UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek, Thomas served as a member of the campus's Task Force on Civility and Community and was an integral member of the committee for the Celebration of African American Achievement.

Off campus, Thomas has served as the chair of the NCAA Division I Track and Field Committee, directed multiple championship events for the SEC and the NCAA, and serves as the university's senior woman administrator with the SEC.

Thomas first joined the UT staff as the undergraduate head manager of the Lady Volunteer basketball team from 1978 to 1982 while working toward her bachelor's degree in secondary physical education. She then returned to Tennessee in 1990 as a graduate assistant in athletic administration and earned her master's degree in recreation and athletic administration.

During her time away from UT, Thomas served as the director of recreation ministries for Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis from 1982 to 1990. At CUMC, she managed the athletic and activity program of the 5,000-member church; her responsibilities included program development and planning for ages 2 through senior adult.

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