Chuck and Nancy Thomas became Unitarians after starting their adult lives with careers in engineering and nursing, respectively. Married in 1958 in the Baptist church where Nancy grew up, they soon left that church when the pastor told them Chuck must stop asking questions in his adult Sunday School class. On the advice of a friend, the young couple visited First Unitarian Church of Dayton, OH, where the religious education process was all about asking good questions. Before long Chuck was teaching Sunday School for the First Church teen group.
While working and raising their children, Chuck and Nancy were active lay leaders in Dayton and then in Richmond, Indiana, during the 1960s and 70s. Realizing that he found his volunteer activities for local congregations more fulfilling than his job as an engineer, Chuck decided to make a career change to the ministry. Nancy fully supported Chuck’s calling and always continued to pursue her own.
Because he had attended a specialized engineering college in his youth, Chuck was required to prove himself academically with several undergraduate liberal arts classes before entering seminary. In due course he graduated from Earlham School of Religion in 1976 as the second Unitarian Universalist minister to be trained there.
The Rev. Chuck Thomas served the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA’s) Ohio Valley and Heartland Districts over the years in a number of capacities from circuit rider to board member. He was ordained by First Unitarian Church of Dayton, Ohio, in 1984 and served as minister of that church until 1998. He also served the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Lima, Ohio from 1990-2014. Until retiring to California in 2014, he was affiliate minister of the Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, preached occasionally from other pulpits in Ohio and Indiana, and was an on-call chaplain at Dayton’s Children’s Medical Center.
The UUA’s Thomas Scholarship was founded in 1998 to honor Chuck’s career in the Unitarian Universalist ministry and his family’s long-standing commitment to lay leadership. Nancy’s name was added to the scholarship after her death in 2004.
This scholarship serves Unitarian Universalism, and individual Unitarian Universalists like Chuck and Nancy Thomas, by valuing a history of service and leadership as critical elements of a call toward professional theological training. Each year it supports a student in the first year of seminary or in preparatory academic work. Thomas Scholars qualify for the award by demonstrating their outstanding commitment to Unitarian Universalism as lay leaders.
For more information, please contact the Ministerial Credentialing Office.
To contribute to this scholarship fund, please contact the Stewardship and Development Department.
Read a list of previous Thomas Award recipients.