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Former Central State University President Arthur Thomas has died

headshot of man in black shirt with glasses
Central State University
Arthur Thomas, Ed.D. served as president of Central State University from 1985-1995.

A former Central State University president has died. Arthur Thomas, Ed.D. led the school in Wilberforce from 1985 to 1995, and was the first CSU alumnus to hold the seat of president. Thomas died Thursday in Silver Spring, Md.

The Philadelphia native served in the Army before becoming a Dayton Public Schools teacher, where he is remembered for walking students to school to keep them safe as the district was desegregating in the late '60s.

"Dr. Thomas walked several students to the district's administration building, but upon returning with a group, he was arrested along with some students. He was later fired by the district for 'exceeding his job responsibilities,' " according to a release.

Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton appointed Thomas to serve on the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) advisory board, and Clinton named him an official representative to South Africa's first democratic elections. While in South Africa, he befriended Nelson Mandela, leading to a partnership that brought South African students to study on campus.

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In a statement, son Jeffrey Thomas says his father fulfilled his life's purpose.

"My father loved people and education. He used his life experiences to provide opportunities for young people to succeed."

He says his father told him, "I have lived a great life and I have done what I was supposed to do. I am OK with being at rest."

Thomas graduated from Central State in 1962 and went on to earn a master's degree from Miami University and his doctorate from University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

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Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.