Biography: Botanist, educator; college president. Born– Feb. 14, 1933 in Holt, Ala. Parents– Ralph Cage and Chamintney Elizabeth (Stovall) Thomas. Married– Marly A. Dukes, Dec. 22, 1954. Children– Four. Education– Harvard University, A.B. (1955), A.M.(1957), Ph.D. (1959).  Cytotaxonomist at Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, 1959-1961; taught at University of Alabama and directed its Herbarium, 1961-1976; director of UAi Arboretum, 1964-1976, and assistant dean of College of Arts and Sciences, 1964-1965 and in 1969; dean for student development, 1969-1974; vice president for student affairs, 1974-1976;  chancellor North Carolina State University, 1976-1981. President of the University of Alabama, 1981-88; president of Pennsylvania State University, 1990-95. Served on the board of three agricultural research centers:  The International Potato Center, ISNAR; and and the Internation Fund for Agricultural Research. Named outstanding professor at University of Alabama, 1964-1965; Member Alabama Academy of Honor, 1983.  Received honorary degrees from the University of Alabama, North Carolina State University, Stillman College, and Tri-State University. Thomas Hall on the Penn State Campus is named in his honor. Died March 3, 2014.

Source: American Men and Women of Science, 1982; Who’s Who in America, 1984; obituary, Tuscaloosa News, March 4, 2014.


A Monographic Study of the Cyrillaceae. Cambridge, Mass.; Gray Herbarium of Harvard University, 1960.


Poisonous Plants and Venomous Animals of Alabama and Adjoining States. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990.

Wild Flowers of Alabama and Adjoining States. Tuscaloosa, Ala.; University of Alabama Press, 1973.


Changes and Issues.  University of Alabama, 1976.

The Rising South. University, Ala.; University of Alabama Press, 1973.