A Tribute: Thank You, Jermaine Thomas

Like a familiar scene where the heroes walk off into the sunset, one of Guilford College’s greatest heroes, Jermaine Thomas, joined the College’s (hypothetical) Hall of Fame on Oct. 19. Since his arrival in August of 2019, he has served Guilford through many roles, including those of the Director of Public Safety and the chair of the Health and Safety Task Force. After serving the College for 18 months, he has taken a similar job at Bennett College. Apart from his many jobs to protect students and faculty, he became an essential community builder at Guilford who fulfilled vital work at one of the most unprecedented times in the College’s history.

Prior to joining Guilford’s staff, he served as the Chief of Police at Louisburg College for four years, which gave him the knowledge and experience to preserve Guilford’s student and faculty body throughout the many circumstances that the College encountered.  

However, aside from the prior experience, the character he possessed—the traits that allowed him to make invaluable connections with both the students and faculty at Guilford—is what allowed the college to become closer to the original goals of its founders.

“I witnessed many times where Jermaine’s observations and thinking exemplified Quaker testimonies, particularly those of equality and integrity,” said Jim Hood, former interim president at Guilford. “He was a champion for fairness and honesty in addressing issues and dealing with people. I miss him very much.”

Guilford’s seven core values—community, diversity, equality, excellence, integrity, justice and stewardship—have created an unparalleled learning environment for students, one that revolves greatly around honoring the uniqueness of each student, regardless of race, gender, interests or sexuality. Professors at the College have historically strived to create an equitable, inclusive, interactive and community-and-forum-based learning environment for all students. However, due to the pandemic and the transition to virtual learning the image of Guilford was drastically transformed. Staff and faculty found themselves making daily choices between offering their students the education that they deserved and keeping them safe amidst a deadly pandemic.

When the Health and Safety Task Force was formed to preserve the health of the Guilford community, Jermaine Thomas was called to fulfill the role of Task Force chair. By helping the College smoothly transition into a student-led contact tracing program, COVID-19 hotline, and mask-wearing guidelines, Thomas maneuvered through times where jobs were being lost, funds were being cut and the College was losing enrollment. 

Throughout this time, Thomas made sure that students were not only receiving the best safety protocol measures possible, but also were updated about the decisions that the Task Force made. With weekly email updates, students were notified of the status of COVID-19 cases at the College, as well as the newest policies that were put in place. At a tumultuous time where each college was struggling to find the best ways to keep their students alive, Jermaine Thomas maneuvered past each speed bump that the year 2020 threw at him. By the end of fall 2020, only 36 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported. 

Aside from his incredible accomplishment in keeping the College safe during the pandemic, Thomas built lasting relationships and connections with students, valuing the immense humanity within Guilford’s community. 

“Jermaine was not employed at Guilford for a long time compared with some other people, but he leaves behind a record of incredible service,” Hood said. “He was very interested in making sure public safety officers interacted closely with students by getting to know them, and he got to know many, many students himself.”

As a valued member of the community who left behind so many memories, set an example for Quaker values and showed students what kind of leader to become, Thomas, no doubt, will move on to spread his incredible influence elsewhere. Thank you, Jermaine Thomas, for your service. Guilford owes so much to the service and guidance you offered for the short, but incredible run you had at the College.

“For the current students I want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to serve you for the last couple of years. We had a few cries, but many more laughs, and I learned a lot from you all. Your perseverance, resilience, and forward thinking has me confident that the world will be in great shape.”

-Jermaine Thomas