In Memoriam: Diane Thomas, Director of Advancement

December 5, 2008

Diane Thomas, director of advancement at Pacific School of Religion, died in her Berkeley home on December 1, following a battle with cancer. A lifelong advocate for peace and justice, Thomas was born in Seattle, Washington in 1950 and educated at Whitworth College, where she earned a BA in religion and literature in 1972, and at Fort Wright College of the Holy Names, where she earned an MA in education in 1974.

In 1976, Thomas co-founded the UC Weapons Lab Conversion Project and toured the state giving speeches with anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg. Because of her prominence in the anti-nuclear weapons movement, Thomas, along with Coretta Scott King and others, was one of the speakers at a massive rally held to bring pressure on a United Nations Special Session on Disarmament in New York City in June 1982. She addressed the crowd of more than one million people after having fasted for disarmament for 30 days.

“Diane was a shining person,” recalled Ellsberg. “She was loving and loveable, fully committed and conscientious in her activism, and dedicated to helping make a better life for all people. Those who knew her thought of her as one of the best human beings any of us had ever encountered. She was one of my heroes.”

From 1975 to 1993, Thomas served as executive director of the Ecumenical Peace Institute, the northern California chapter of Clergy and Laity Concerned, an interfaith justice and peace action group focusing on militarism, racism, and empire and working with Native Americans, political prisoners, and youth. She then served as a director of development at several organizations in Berkeley: the Ecology Center (1993-95), Chaparral House, a non-profit eldercare center (1995-1997), the Graduate Theological Union (1997-1999), and University Health Services at UC Berkeley (1999-2000) before she joined the staff of Pacific School of Religion, where she directed the annual fund and alumni relations.

“With her personal faith, her passion for peace and justice, and her capacity for deep relationships, Diane helped us realize how important these things are for all of us at Pacific School of Religion,” said the seminary’s president, William McKinney. “She was also, as all who knew her can attest, a feisty lady. In all of these ways, Diane Thomas was very much a true reflection of this institution.”

Among her duties at PSR was organizing the seminary’s annual Earl Lectures, which she believed “represent one of the great opportunities to influence clergy and encourage the best in the religious community.” As co-founder of the seminary’s Dismantling Racism Committee, Diane helped lead efforts to make PSR more inclusive.

“She was a dedicated anti-racist who boldly stood up to speak truth to power over issues of injustice and discrimination,” said her long-time friend and colleague, Reverend Daniel Buford, regional coordinator for People’s Institute West, in Berkeley.

Diane is survived by her partner, David Raymond; her daughter Hannah and family (spouse Kyle and son Jacob); her son Daniel and family (spouse Kate and daughter Sonia); her son Gabriel; and her sister Linna (and spouse Lance). A memorial service will be held on the campus of Pacific School of Religion on January 17 at 10am in the Chapel of the Great Commission. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Dismantling Racism Committee at PSR or the Iraq Initiatives Project.