Alaska Pacific University joins Alaskans in bidding farewell to the extraordinary Mary Taylor “Tay” Thomas, who died on October 17th at the age of 87. Tay was a journalist and the author of eight books, including Our Flight to Adventure, which chronicled the experience that she and her husband, the author, bush pilot and adventurer, Lowell Thomas Jr., shared in 1954-1955 when they took off from France in their Cessna 180 and made aviation history as the first single engine private plane to fly across Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. It was this same, shared spirit of adventure that brought the couple to Alaska with their two children, Anne and David, in 1960, and it defined their sixty-four years together.
Tay Thomas was known in Anchorage and throughout the state for founding the food distribution agency, Fellowship in Serving Humanity (F.I.S.H.), her two terms on the Anchorage school board, her membership on the board of the Anchorage YWCA, and, along with husband Lowell, her philanthropic support of the Anchorage Museum, the Conservation Society, Alaska Pacific University, Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church and many other organizations and causes. Taken together, they reveal something of the depth of her belief in, and practice of, service to the community. Along with their spirit of adventure, public service was something that defined her partnership with Lowell, who campaigned alongside Jay Hammond in 1974 and became Alaska’s fifth Lieutenant Governor.
In gratitude for their generous support of our Nordic ski programs over the years, Alaska Pacific University named the training facility on Eagle Glacier “The Thomas Training Center.” At 5,000 feet in the Chugach Mountains southeast of Anchorage, Eagle Glacier is the summer training site for APU Nordic skiers and it has been the key to their international success.
Tay Thomas devoted her life and considerable energy to the service of others and this, along with a fundamental kindness that was at the very center of her being, are the things for which Tay Thomas was truly known and loved and for which she will be remembered and missed. With her passing, Alaska Pacific University has lost a great good friend. All of us at Alaska Pacific University wish to express our condolences to her husband, Lowell Thomas Jr., and to her family.