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.

Comments

what a powerful life

My heartfelt thanks for this moving remembrance of my dear former colleague Diane. As well as I knew Diane, this is the first I've heard many of these powerful stories and experiences. It was a tremendous honor to know and serve with her at PSR and count her as a dear friend. My love and condolences to the PSR family as you move into this new time without her presence among you.

A precious friend

To David and to Diane's children...
And to Linna:
I remember Diane's briliant mind, and her enthusiasm for life and experience in Highschool. (1968 Lake Oswego, OR) From the first time we met it was a kindred friendship. History, Philosophy, the human spirit... these were things mulled over and shared. And then too... the Seniors May Fete float- What fun she was!!
Though we went separate ways after graduating, we stayed in touch through our 'Moms' and were able to write, and finally re-unite in LO a few years ago. It was as if we only stepped out the door and back again. Talking and sharing like the 'sisters' and friends we had always been, the reunion was precious, and I'm so thankful for it. I too never knew even a 10th of what Diane had accomplished in her professional life, but I did know the girl inside. And that is a gift to cherish. I will miss being able to contact her here on this side, but look forward to seeing her again 'over-there.' May God bless and keep you.

diane

heard through the precious grapevine of life about diane. i knew her from our kirkland/washington days. ohhhhhhhh the funny times we all had in jr. high. as i looked at her photo i had to smile, because i still see the loving witty girl of god.

a life well lived and much to be proud of as a citizen of the planet. condolences to the ones left behind to carry on. to her children: i am sure she made you laugh as well as roll your eyes. for linna: we loved watching you cheer. for all her friends: lucky us. even though i had not seen diane for years, i would still have moments of thinking of her....be reminded of something we did. so i am smiling tonight.

may you all be blessed with good things again.

missy

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