Alumni couple, Boise City native, establish science chair at OSU

Oklahoma State University alumni Carl and Marilynn Thoma have announced the establishment of the Marilynn Thoma Chair in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at OSU. The purpose of the chair is to fund a key faculty position in the college. Establishment of endowed chairs provides perpetual funds to enhance the professor's salary, support research and fund related expenses through the interest earnings on the monies placed in the endowment. Gifts to endow faculty chairs are matched by the State of Oklahoma .

Dr. Patricia Knaub, dean of the college, said, “We are extremely grateful for this wonderful gift. Endowed chairs are impressive and vital for success in the academic world.” The Marilynn Thoma Chair will be a catalyst in bringing distinction to the college by attracting and keeping highly regarded professors.”

“When we reconnected with OSU in 2000, we noticed the change that had occurred in the College of Human Environmental Sciences ,” said Marilynn Thoma. “Under Dean Knaub, the academic program has evolved to focus on well defined areas of concern to humans, and a resourceful faculty has adapted the curriculum and undertaken research to squarely address the needs of families and industry today.” 

Through the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Foundation, the couple also provided the lead gift to establish the Ranchers Club at the Atherton Hotel at OSU and funds to create the Oklahoma Wine Forums, the first of which will be held on the OSU campus April 13-14, 2007 . “The Ranchers Club and the Wine Forum are examples of initiatives that enrich the learning experience for students and raise the academic profile of the college,” said Carl Thoma. “OSU is an important institution for not only us, but also for many members of both our families. We hope that our gift will enable the college to pursue academic initiatives and draft faculty of the caliber that will bolster the college's role as a leader among the programs of its type in this country.” 

In the past ten years CHES has experienced phenomenal growth. Numbers of students enrolled in the College have grown 80% since 1995 and contributions for scholarships and facilities enhancements have increased 250%.  “Through private support we are able to offer more and larger scholarships to outstanding students thus becoming a player in the competition for the best and brightest at OSU. This kind of support also attracts outstanding students by providing opportunities for experiential education such as study abroad and internships. Private support enhances opportunities for faculty as well,” Knaub explained. 

The School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration ranks among the top ten programs in the nation and the Interior Design program in the Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising is ranked among the top three by the Foundation for Interior Design Education and Research.

Marilynn Benbrook Thoma, a native of Woodward , Okla. , is a 1970 graduate of the OSU College of Human Environmental Sciences. She received an MBA from Stanford's Graduate School of Business in 1974. After a career in brand management at Quaker Oats, Marilynn shifted her focus to the marketing and development of the cellular telephone industry with Cellular Network and Proxy Communications. She currently oversees marketing activities for Van Duzer Vineyards, the winery the family owns in Oregon 's Willamette Valley . 

Carl, who was raised on a ranch near Boise City , also completed his degree at OSU in business in 1970.  After earning an MBA from Stanford in 1973, Carl began his career in venture capital investment.  In 1980, he founded a private equity firm now known as Thoma Cressey Equity Partners with offices in Chicago, San Francisco and Boston.  His firm has invested more than $2 billion in growing companies over the past 25 years, and Carl has been acknowledged in Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, and Business Week for his investment leadership. Carl is actively involved on the advisory councils of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Illinois and National Venture Capital Associations. He was honored with the OSU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002.

The Kenilworth , Illinois residents are the parents of Margo and Mark, also Stanford graduates. They are actively involved in civic philanthropy in the Chicago area. Marilynn chaired the capital campaign to build the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, and serves as the vice-chair and treasurer of Chicago Humanities Festival and is the president-elect of the Women's Board of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Carl has served on boards of directors of Evanston-Northwestern Healthcare and Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa , California.

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