Dr. Paul Thomas, a renowned researcher, prolific speaker, and mentor to college horticulture students, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, while traveling to visit with former students and industry colleagues.
Dr. Thomas was a staple at the University of Georgia and beyond, having mentored and influenced countless students who are now involved in the industry. He had recently retired from the University of Georgia and had taken a new position with the American Floral Endowment promoting their intern program.
“Dr. Thomas was a friend and an inspiration to many in the industry and will be sorely missed,” said Dr. Matthew Chappell, Associate Professor and Statewide Extension Specialist (Nursery Crops) at the University of Georgia, in a statement on behalf of the University of Georgia. “Please join us in extending our thoughts and prayers to his family and all those who were touched by his generous spirit.”
Friends, colleagues, and former students have posted several comments on the University of Georgia’s Georgia Ornamentals Facebook page this week, offering their tribute to Thomas and condolences to his family.
Paul Thomas earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in botany from Southern Illinois University and his doctorate in plant physiology, with a specialization in plant carbohydrate transport in maize, from Pennsylvania State University. Over the years, his research focused on water conservation, production input reduction, sustainable greenhouse practices, and implementation of wireless, sensor-controlled irrigation systems in nurseries and greenhouses.
Recently, he has been involved in helping horticulture students find jobs after graduation.
In 2017, Thomas received the Society of American Florists’ Alex Laurie Award, named for the eminent professor at The Ohio State University whose research revolutionized the floriculture industry.