Supporting the Liberal Arts: Thomas ’63 and Patricia Raymond Thomas ’65, P’88

Tom and Patti Thomas
“I was the first Thomas in three generations not to go to Princeton, and I wasn’t so happy as a freshman—until I figured out that Colby was the right place for me,” said Tom Thomas ’63. During his time at Colby, 90 percent of the men were in fraternities, and he was among the other 10 percent. “That ended up being a good thing for me. I had a good time at Colby. I was very much involved in the Outing Club and in Powder and Wig. I met my wife, Patti, in the Waterville Opera House working on Threepenny Opera, so we have emotional connections to Colby.”

Tom’s positive experience at Colby, the preparation it provided for his career, and his strong belief in the value of the liberal arts to prepare future grads motivated him to give back to Colby. One way he has given back has been through a charitable remainder unitrust, and he ended up delighted at the way Colby’s planned giving professionals took some unproductive assets of his and turned them into generators of significant and substantial income, and tax benefits, too. But more on that later.

Tom was a history major, but one of his favorite courses was freshman biology with Professor Allan Scott. “DNA was a new thing, and he was so excited about it that it’s still with me fifty years later,” said Tom. “I’m a big-time believer in the liberal arts—having students exposed to more than just how to build a bridge or take out somebody’s liver. The whole liberal arts experience was good for me, and therefore I’d love to see as many students exposed to it as possible.”

Tom also has fond memories of Professor of History David Bridgman, whom he calls the original “question authority guy." “He encouraged us to question authority long before the days when it was a slogan,” said Tom. But he credits Professor of Religious Studies Gustave Todrank with having the most influence on his life by encouraging him to develop his own beliefs, which led him to become an active Unitarian Universalist.

Tom and Patti have three children, and their son, Bob, graduated from Colby in 1988. Bob met his wife, Caroline O’Brien Thomas ’88, there as well. Tom would be happy if the Colby tradition were passed down another generation. “Who knows? Our grandkids aren’t old enough yet, but I dream of it,” he said.

Back in 1980 Tom and Patti had some valuable assets that weren’t earning anything. By creating a charitable remainder unitrust at Colby, they started earning 6 percent from those assets and received a tax deduction as well. Over the past 30 years the income and value of the Thomases' trust has gone up and down, but they have seen an 11.5 percent compound annual return, and they have received approximately six times the value of the gift in payments.

“Colby took an asset that wasn’t doing anything and got it to the point where it’s now paying us about forty-five thousand dollars a year,” said Tom. In better economic times it paid as much as $60,000 a year.

The Thomases have designated their gift to unrestricted endowment, which means that after they pass on their trust will support whatever area the College deems most-needed. “I can’t imagine anybody better with whom to establish a charitable remainder trust. Colby does a great job, and that’s something I can be proud of,” said Tom.

The Thomases live in Doylestown, Penn. Tom founded Thomas Travel Service in 1977 and grew the company to around 50 employees. In the early eighties he took a group of Colby people to London. He sold the business in 2007 but is still loosely affiliated with it. “I’m the in-house African safari expert for the local branch, so when somebody wants to go to Africa, I get called in. I enjoy planning their trips to Botswana—the place to go for your first trip to Africa. I can be very enthusiastic about it because of my personal experiences, whether with a lion, an elephant, or a little thing like a bee-eater, which is a bird.”

Tom also has been on the board of the Bucks County Historical Society (Mercer Museum) for almost 40 years, including two terms as chair, and serves as the planned giving chair for his Unitarian church. Patti is an active volunteer who has served as president of the League of Women Voters, Buck’s County Planned Parenthood, and the Central Bucks Family YMCA.

Both Tom and Patti have been active volunteers at Colby over the years as well, serving as planned giving agents and admissions interviewers. Tom was an internship sponsor, and Patti served on the Alumni Council and as a Colby Fund agent and regional club officer. “We are definitely enthusiastic alumni who believe in what Colby is doing, and assuming we live another year and a half, we’ll be up there for my 50th,” Tom said.

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If you would like to learn more about how Colby may fit into your plans, let's talk. Please call Susan F. Cook '75, P'11, in the Office of Gift Planning at 800-809-0103 or sfcook@colby.edu.
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