Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., a well-known diversity leader, died on Friday. He was 69.
There has been great sorrow from the diversity community.
“Dr. Thomas’ impact on the field of diversity management is immeasurable. The thought leadership he provided launched the careers of an entire generation of practitioners, including mine,” said David Casey, Vice President, Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Caremark, one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies. “He dedicated his life to doing more than just teaching people what to do in this work; he taught us to think, always pushing beyond best practices to exploring next practices. He was a true visionary, accessible thought leader, pioneer, coach, mentor and friend. His legacy will undoubtedly continue to shape the field and the careers of practitioners for decades to come.”
Jennifer “Jae” Pi’ilani Requiro, National Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, Toyota Financial Services, said: “Roosevelt should be heralded as a founder of our field of diversity. He pushed for transformational change with a quiet and thoughtful style, which I found to be effective and inspiring. Dr. Roosevelt Thomas leaves a legacy of leadership and forward-thinking. I am proud to have called him a colleague and a friend.” Requiro is a member of the Diversity Collegium, a think tank that Dr. Thomas helped establish. Toyota Motor North America is No. 48 in the DiversityInc Top 50.
Julius Pryor III, consultant and former corporate executive, said: “The world lost a shining star and the heavens gained a bright ray of light when Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr. passed away. This champion of diversity was loved and respected, and will be greatly missed by all who were lucky enough to have had him in their lives.”
Dr. Thomas, who ran his own diversity-consulting firm, was the author of seven diversity-management books, most recently World Class Diversity Management: A Strategic Approach. Perhaps his best-known book was The Giraffe and Elephant: A Diversity Fable.
He also served as Secretary of Morehouse College, Dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Atlanta University and Assistant Professor at the Harvard Business School.
In 1984, he founded the American Institute for Managing Diversity, a nonprofit research and educational organization.
Dr. Thomas earned a Doctor of Business Administration from Harvard Business School, an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College. He is survived by his wife, Judge Ruby J. Thomas.