Thomas receives preservation award

The Rev. Richard Thomas, Cornell College historian and professor of history emeritus, received the 2009 Preservationist Award from the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance (IHPA) for “championing historic preservation.” The award recognizes Thomas’ more than 35 years as a leader in Iowa’s historic preservation.

ihpa-preservation-of-the-year-may-09Thomas, who also formerly served as the Cornell College chaplain, received the 2007 Petersen/Harlan Award from the State Historical Society of Iowa in recognition of his services to historical preservation. He has chaired or served on Mount Vernon’s Historic Preservation Commission for 29 years.

”I was very surprised,” said Thomas of the award. “It’s a special honor when it comes from an organization of your peers and colleagues. That’s one of the nicest things about it. It comes from people who have an appreciation for the field.”

Among his many efforts at preserving Cornell’s history is the Sesquicentennial History he wrote along with Professor William Heywood and a variety of essays on a number of topics concerning Cornell’s history. Thomas also wrote the nomination of the campus for the National Register of Historic Places, and Cornell’s entire campus is now listed on that registry, one of only two in the nation. He’s still an intellectual presence on campus, teaches a course annually, and regularly contributes historical information to anyone who asks.

Thomas started at Cornell in 1967 and officially retired in 1996, but has continued to teach every year since.

In addition to his work at Cornell, he was the first chairman of the Iowa State Historical Department in 1974. In 1977 Gov. Robert Ray appointed him chairman of the Terrace Hill Authority, which transformed the Governor’s mansion into one of the nation’s best examples of adaptive reuse of a historic building. He was also a member of the Iowa review committee for the National Register of Historic Places.

View the story in the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun.