Diversity Executive Columnist, Industry Pioneer Passes Away

Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., 68, of Decatur, Ga., president and CEO of Roosevelt Thomas Consulting & Training Inc., died May 17, 2013, in Atlanta. Thomas was a longtime columnist and supporter of Diversity Executive magazine as well as a senior research fellow for The American Institute for Managing Diversity, a nonprofit research and education group he founded.

Thomas was a respected diversity executive and the author of five books, including Building on the Promise of Diversity: How We Can Move to the Next Level in Our Workplaces, Our Communities, and Our Society and Beyond Race and Gender: Unleashing the Power of Your Total Workforce by Managing Diversity. His ideas about diversity management altered the practice of diversity and inclusion, and his passion for the practice was well-known and well-trusted.

Thomas earned a DBA in organizational behavior from Harvard University, an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics summa cum laude from Morehouse College. He served as secretary of Morehouse College, dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Atlanta University, assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, and was an instructor at Morehouse College.

In 2005, Thomas was the recipient of Bennett College’s Chief Diversity Officers Forum’s Trailblazer in Diversity Award. He was also recognized by The Wall Street Journal as one of the top 10 consultants in the country.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. May 24 at Friendship Baptist Church, 437 Mitchell St., SW in Atlanta.

Below are reactions from some of Thomas’ peers:

“I’ve known Roosevelt for several decades, and he’s had an impact on me both personally and professionally. I remember asking him once for his ‘elevator’ speech on inclusion. He said, ‘inclusion is the maximum utilization of the skills of the workforce.’ I never forgot that. It propelled me to work harder to help individuals tell their leaders how to best utilize their skills and to help those leaders look deeper and wider at the skills their employees possessed. We had many wonderful conversations over the years, his smile, his quiet but strong presence will remain forever ingrained in my mind.” — Beverly Kaye, founder, Career Systems International

“Roosevelt Thomas was a wonderful friend, a great person and a true pioneer in the field of diversity. His work went far beyond ‘representation.’ Dr. Thomas focused on the deeper issues of why diversity is critical for the organization of the future and how companies can actually make it happen.” — Marshall Goldsmith, author

“Roosevelt was a person who made the world a better place. He made a difference! I feel fortunate to have known him. I especially connected with him because we were both introverted. I will miss our annual conversations.” — Rick Culley, president, Institute for Executive Development

“Roosevelt Thomas was the gold standard for insights about diversity and inclusion. He understood before anyone that diversity offered a competitive advantage for organizations, giving them access to fresh insights and information. He articulated that point of view with power and developed it over many decades. I feel privileged to have learned from him and to have counted him as a friend.” — Sally Helgesen, author, The Female Vision and The Web of Inclusion

“Roosevelt always saw the deeper issues of diversity, which was more than color or ethnicity, but about learning to truly appreciate difference and the value it brings to work and world. And that understanding along with his kind, gentle persona made him a gift to the world.” — John Izzo, Author of Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything

Thomas’ most recent column in the May/June issue of Diversity Executive was “The House That Diversity Built.”