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Scholarship created in memory of lecturer, alumnus

November 26, 2003

Photo of Don Thomas and some of his film creaturesThe Cinema Department recently announced the establishment of an annual student scholarship in memory of alumnus and Lecturer Gordon B. (Don) Thomas. He died June 6 at age 35.

The $500 scholarship will be awarded to one SFSU cinema student each year. So far, $6,860 has been donated in private funds.

"Don was highly creative, diligent and inspiring. He believed in the strength of human diversity and artistic statements of issues of importance," said Dick Thomas, his father. "We look forward to assisting aspiring filmmakers who share these same values and attributes."

An award-winning animator and filmmaker, Thomas was the first SFSU student to earn a master of fine arts degree in animation cinema. After graduating in 2001, he went on to teach beginning and advanced courses in animation at the University until his death.

The scholarship was announced at a memorial film screening earlier this month on campus. Members of Thomas' family, as well as his partner Ron Ng, attended.

"Don believed in the power and necessity of finding one's own voice," Ng said. "In our homogeneous corporate mediated society, our voices and stories are often disregarded and ignored, and our isolation from each other magnified. Don believed that out of necessity for our collective survival, we need to hear each other's voices and stories to find our way into the future, together."

Thomas was well-liked and well-regarded for his creativity and sense of humor by both faculty and students.

"He was a stellar colleague for me, always cheerful and willing to help with everything and an extremely talented artist and filmmaker," said Martha Gorzycki, assistant professor of cinema and animation coordinator.

Thomas' most recent film, a stop-motion and hand-drawn animated short titled "Pedro + Tony?," is a comedy of errors that turns serious when Pedro, a dog, and his boyfriend Tony, a chicken, celebrate their six-month anniversary amid tension and fights. The film screened at more than 50 festivals worldwide and won the Best Animation Prize at the 2002 Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival. Thomas and "Pedro + Tony?" received worldwide publicity when he ran around Park City, Utah, dressed in a chicken suit during the 2002 Sundance Film Festival to promote the movie.

Thomas' other films include "Goodbye, I Love You," which earned the 1998 Gold Apple Award from the National Educational Media Network, and "FIXIT," winner of the 1994 Silver Apple Award at the National Educational Film and Television Festival.

A native of Naperville, Ill., Thomas was among the first openly gay high school students in his district and served as a role model, mentor and counselor to other adolescents struggling with issues of sexual orientation. His advocacy for acceptance and tolerance remained a priority and is evident in his film work.

Gorzycki is coordinating details on the criteria and application process for the scholarship.

The SFSU Foundation is accepting donations in memory of Thomas for the scholarship. For contributions, make a check out to the SFSU Foundation, include "in memory of Don Thomas" on the memo line, and send to: Jennifer Severin, Office of Development, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Ave., San Francisco, Calif., 94132.

-- Matt Itelson





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Last modified November 26, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs