gwen thomas

“The greatest failure in life is not to try!”

Church Service: Wednesday, December 1   |   11 am
West Angeles Church of God in Christ (North Campus) | 3045 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016 | (323) 733-8300

Campus Memorial: Monday, December 6   |   12:30pm   |   Fine Arts Theater

Professor Gwen-Marie Thomas served as a full-time instructor of Business and Management at West Los Angeles College for over 21 years. She also served as Business Department Vice-Chair, Vocational Training and Education Management Program Project Manager, UMOJA Black Student Movement Council Member, International Student Program Ambassador, Phi Beta Lambda Business Club Co-Advisor and WLAC’s Foundation Interim Director.

Professor Thomas was especially popular with students. Many credited her with providing a positive turning point in their lives. Alumni regularly returned to visit and thank her.

To enhance the learning experience, she regularly sponsored student visits to the Los Angeles Black Business Expo, US Asia Expo, Hispanic Business Magazine Conference, Pacific Stock Exchange and financial and real estate seminars. She also organized student voter registrations and was a WLAC Scholarship donor.

Outside of the college, she served on the Board of Directors for Los Angeles’ 24,000 member West Angeles Church of God in Christ and on the Jefferson Park Community Improvement Project. Additionally, she made trips to Africa to donate children’s books, school supplies and shoes. Thomas partnered with California Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally to secure a $50,000 donation from Estee Lauder Cosmetics for Save Africa’s Children.

Thomas earned her AA degree at WLAC and her BA and MSA at California State University Dominguez Hills.

Read her full bio...


To Gwen Thomas, our Phenomenal Woman, as
Maya Angelou said it best:

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

We will miss you, Ms. Gwen!
From: Foster, Adrienne A.

gradProfessor Gwen M. Thomas
West Los Angeles College

When someone you love becomes memory,
the memory becomes a treasure.
The angels are always near to those who are grieving,
to whisper to them that their loved ones are safe in the hand of God.
Although its difficult today to see beyond the sorrow,
May looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow.

I know that family is everything to me.
I just waited to say that my heart is with you and your family.

Darrell R. Roberson
Friend & Coworker

FACULTY/STAFF REMARKS                                                      > view Student Remarks

dove 2From: Floyd, Suzanne
Sent: 11/24/10 4:15 PM

Gwen's essence was kindness and cheer. She always had a kind word and was filled with warmth. Whenever our paths crossed she brightened my day. This is an immense loss for our community and all who loved her.

dove 2From: Lee, Jeffrey
Sent: 11/24/10 6:32PM

I think the enormous spontaneous response to Gwen's passing alone says a lot about who she was and what she meant to West. Because of the proximity of our classrooms and then offices, Gwen and I have spoken dozens of times and always, always, she embodied everything and more that has been said by so many.

For me, she lived and taught both her colleagues and her students that professionalism, responsibility, and decorum is as important as the curriculum in any class. I will truly miss her.

dove 2From: Sandi J., Pinio
Sent: 11/29/10 3:12 PM

Gwen was a truly spectacular, professional and caring educator and human being. She set the standards that all of us should aspire to achieve in our teaching and our life. I will deeply miss the warmth, insight and support she gave me over the years. I am grateful for the inspiration and what I learned from this great lady. She will truly be missed.

dove 2From: Professor Fran Leonard

Professor Gwen Marie Thomas - we are so thankful for having you at West all these years. We remember and cherish the love and care you lavished on your students, who blossomed and thrived through your special touch.


dove 2From: Anders, Bruce L.
Sent: 11/24/10 12:07 PM

I second Richard's very fine comments and suggestion. I can only add the suggestion that we seek ways and means to continue the momentum she heroically created to move our students to excellence and success.

When I came to campus yesterday, after learning about her untimely passing, I felt both empty and filled with hope. Empty because of Gwen's palpable absence and hope, because of the outpouring of love and comfort from our community, not just here in these emails, but in huddled and hushed conversations, and hugs and tears.

I too have known Gwen, since her arrival here at West. I had the privilege to work with her a number of times, and each experience was a lesson to me in finding a just path.

Gwen's dignity, her spiritual grounding, and her advocacy for our students and college have made a critical difference in all of our lives.

Her spirit lives in us.

dove 2From: Banday, Patricia G.
Sent: 11/24/10 11:01 AM


Gwen Thomas was a founding member and served diligently on the WLAC Umoja Council and Statewide Umoja Consortium working tirelessly with the students and with the Council. We have wonderful memories of our dear friend.

Umoja Council,
Glen Schenk, Beth Evans, Patty Banday

dove 2From: Hasan, Sabir J.
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 7:34 PM

I feel like there is a hole in my heart, something missing. Gone to a better place. Peace be with you Gwen.

dove 2From: Sekiyoba, Bayavuge E. (WLAC)
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 4:09 PM

I will miss you my professor, my mentor, and exceptional friend.

dove 2From: Buchynski, Bill
Sent: Tue 11/23/2010 12:34 PM

This is quite a shock and though I would only talk to Gwen in passing; she radiated grace and poise and I also knew, on some intrinsic level, that her students were in good hands. So long Gwen. You will be missed.

dove 2From: Culton, Josefina O.
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 11:28 PM

It is hard to believe that she just passed. She was a lovely lady who contributed greatly to the West community. I wish I would have known her better. She always looked so nice and elegantly dressed. I always heard wonderful things about her from her students. She cared a lot for her students. For all these I felt as if I have lost a member of my family. I was glad to see her receiving the Award of Excellence in Teaching this past Wednesday. She looked so charming dancing. I will missed you Gwen! Now, you are in a better place. We have a big lost!


dove 2From: Laws, Donna Y.
Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 1:11 AM

Hello West Family,

Yes, the passing of Professor Gwen Thomas has greatly affected us all. I am truly saddened and will miss her dearly. But, most importantly, I will remember the positive impact she has had on me personally and professionally. I had only been at West for a short period when I first met her in the Adjunct Faculty Workroom. As I remember, she approached me with her beautiful smile, acknowledging that I was new Faculty, and introduced herself. She offered her assistance, if I should ever need it in any way. That introduction in itself immediately made me feel like a part of the West family. Shortly after that, while at church one Sunday morning, there she was again. Unknown to me, we had another common ground....we were members of the same church. From that day forward, I looked forward to fellowship with her on Sunday mornings. Gwen was truly a lady, graceful and dignified. Her presence will be missed immensely and her memory will forever be in our hearts.

dove 2From: Blustein, Bonnie
Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 7:19 AM

I really like the idea of naming a building after her. I didn't know Gene.

dove 2From: Block, Richard P.
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 9:55 PM

I have known Gwen from her first days on our campus. Many of you have expressed your emotions and all of us grieve her loss. Gwen and the late Gene Phelps loved our students and were loved by them more than any two instructors I can remember. It was always Gwen's dream for our students to have a student center, a place on campus that would bring them here. Let's get the darn thing up and name it after Gwen and Gene!

dove 2From: Patriarca, Lorraine K.
Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 7:46 AM

Gwen was always so thoughtful of Plant Facilities staff and let us know it in many ways. When she walked through our door the work day no longer seemed so demanding…

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
We will miss you Gwen.

dove 2From: Sekiyoba, Bayavuge E. (WLAC)
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 4:09 PM

I will miss you my professor, my mentor, and exceptional friend.

dove 2From: McCaskill, Terri A.
Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 8:09 AM

Good morning everyone,

I echo all of the beautiful words everyone has said about Professor Thomas. She was the epitome of a servant. She served in love and it radiated from her in every way.

Although I didn't know Professor Thomas personally, I was one of the fortunate ones to have crossed her path and learned from her great wisdom. I'll truly miss her and am saddened by her passing.

I pray God's comfort, peace and understanding for Professor Thomas' family and loved ones.

dove 2From: Thompson, Linda J.
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 2:22 PM

To her students she was their mentor
To her church members their faithful outreach partner
To her colleagues a fine educator
To her friends their rock

Gwen you will be sorely missed.

dove 2From: Young, Helen P.
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 12:55 PM

Gwen Thomas represented hope and opportunity for her students. To her colleagues she was the consummate educator - simply there was none finer!

There is an African Proverb that says...

The Soul does not keep time, it only records how much it has been affected. Gwen Thomas you effected by soul deeply and immensely - I will never be the same.
Thank You

dove 2From: Amaugo, Chukwuemeka E.
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 1:51 PM

A rude shock indeed!

dove 2From: Chiang, Anna (CS Instructor)
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 1:10 PM

Gwen’s office is next next next to mine, we salute and chat on regular basis including last Wed., we always encourage with each other to help students survive and succeed…I should have reminded her about taking care of health….

dove 2From: Fink, Steven
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 1:40 PM

I just opened my e-mail today and can’t believe the news of Gwen’s passing.

Gwen’s professionalism and her love of students is well known to all of us.

My sincere condolences to her family; we all share in the loss of a special and memorable person who devoted so much of her life to this college.

dove 2From: Dubois, May
Sent: Tue 11/23/2010 12:33 PM

I love Gwen !!!!! She is beautiful inside and out ! We shared many stories together, from turtles, Bob Lench (past WEST Foundation president) make-up techniques, to helping students out from jail ….. I have a “ book” of cards, photos and love notes that she had sent me through out the years I have worked at WEST. Only less than two week ago we sat together at the AGS’s Teachers Appreciation luncheon. She loved teaching and her students very much . This spirit is so contagious that I have caught on to it like a wide fire.

The scholarship in her name will bring a small consolation to us as undoubtedly she will live forever in our hearts and at WEST

dove 2From: Smith, David-Christian
Sent: Tue 11/23/2010 10:04 AM

I’ve been at West for over a decade and Gwen was one of the instructors that impressed me most in terms of her energy, commitment to her students and teaching, and strength of character. And all of this came through at a distance, because I really did not “know” Gwen at all, just is passing. We served on no committees together, and worked out of different departments and divisions. Nonetheless, I knew all of this about her through simple observation here and there and because of what the student body had to say about her. Two weeks back at the Teacher’s Excellence luncheon she told a story about the way she conducted her classes and broke into an impromptu dance at the podium — it was one of the most charming things I had seen in a long time, and the whole room reacted to her enthusiasm with visible happiness. At that moment I said to myself, “Self,’ I said, ‘you simply have to find some time in your schedule on campus to talk to Gwen a little bit, get to know her a bit more.’ Now that opportunity is lost forever, and it feels like a real blow.

I hope we can create a scholarship or something in her memory, her loss is really a loss to the campus.

dove 2From: Blustein, Bonnie
Sent: Tue 11/23/2010 10:35 AM

I would like for us to continue the scholarships she has been supporting, in her name.

dove 2From: Chow, Judy C.
Sent: Tue 11/23/2010 10:39 AM

The Library and Learning Resources staff will greatly miss her and her beautiful smile.

dove 2From: Lincke-Ivic, Nuala
Sent: Tue 11/23/2010 12:17 PM

Gwen was a teacher who taught teachers how to teach--and how and why they should love their students. I'm grateful to have known her.

dove 2From: Sander, Nancy
Sent: Tue 11/23/2010 11:38 AM

Jackie and Adrienne...You both touched my heart. Thank you for the poem Adrienne.
Gwen brightened anyone's day. When we lose such a shining light, we indeed stop and take stock. I will greatly miss Gwen's smile and cheerful way.
Such a force of a woman!

dove 2From: Manheim, Jackie
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 10:13 AM

You said this so beautifully and I want to say I feel the same. The poem said it all. She was always so loving and gracious and kind to me.

I was so proud and happy to help her anyway I could. One of the reasons I love my job so much was working with someone like Gwen.

I can't put into words how sad I am and I will miss her very, very much.

dove 2From: Foster, Adrienne A.
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 8:48 AM

The loss of a colleague is always hard to understand. Ms. Gwen Thomas, or as I referred to her as "Ms. Gwen", radiated what a concerned and connected faculty member should be like with students. Yesterday and on, the grief that we experience only speaks volumes about what Gwen was to us. The Academic Senate is already preparing a resolution that we plan to adopt at our next Senate meeting. Please take a moment to reflect about Gwen Thomas and do something in her honor.

To Gwen Thomas, our Phenomenal Woman, as Maya Angelou said it best:

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

We will miss you, Ms. Gwen


FROM: Shirley Smith
Include me in offering condolences on our loss of Professor Gwen Thomas. I have been around the block 63 times if you know what I mean - believe me when I tell you that there are Angels walking amongst us. Angel Gwen has left us behind but her Spirit will live on.

FROM: Angela Armstead
Prof Gwen Thomas A.K.A Momma Beautiful and I have been through alot together. I remember when I came to WLAC & I wasn''t sure which way to go. Ms. Thomas was n the President's Lane & she told me to take her classes. I told her I wasn't sur...e what classes I was going to take I was just visiting the campus & trying to feel my way through. When I decided to attend WLAC there she was again but this time she was n the admissions office. There was where she approached me & said I see u have returned & ready to take my classes. I looked up into the sky & said "Lord" who is this woman & what do she see n me that I don't see. She then took me into her office & introduced me to her Business One, Business English, Management One/Two Classes & she told me that she sees that I have potential. I replied WOW Me. After meeting with Ms. Thomas she gave me an add slip & told me if I had problems enrolling into her class here is an add slip I want to see u n my class. I replied Well OK. I was so nervous and scared when I went into her class I didn't pass Business One nor did I pass Business English. She said to me that she was suprised and she guess I wasn't going to return the following semester. After the semester was over she pulled me aside and said to me that she can see that something or someone was trying to stop me. I shared with her that it was my parents. She asked me was I doing this for them or for myself? I told her I don't know. So she said when u make up your mind who u are doing this for I will see u around campus. After hearing that from her I felt CRUSHED. But with much surprise I enrolled into her Business One and Business English Classes all in the same semester. I was n CE202 from 8am to 11am Mondays and Wednesdays. I was determined to prove to her ad myself that I was going to do this. With alot of stuggles, her pushing and holding my hand I passed both classes. She told me to hold on we where going somewhere. I didn't know what she meant by that but I didnt question her. She helped me plan my schedule for the next semester and I was determined to get my AA degree in Office Administration in 2004. She called me her Angel and I called her Momma Beautiful. She didn't treat me no different from the rest of the class even though I have not only a Physical but a Learning Disability. Prof. Thomas was my world. I knew I was safe once I met her. When I learned about her passisng I remembered her telling me just recently that she wants me to continue on when she goes home to Glory. I looked at her with such a blank look on my face and I said to her Momma Beautiful u will b ok. She grabbed my left shoulder and held my right hand and said I know I will I am ready but b4 I go I assure u my Angel will b ok too. I know then that Ms. Thomas was making her transition. But b4 she shared that with me I had been having a heavy heart & not able to sleep straight through the night & I didnt know what was wrong with me or what the "Lord" was trying to tell me. When I returned to campus a current student of her's shared with me of her passing. I then SCREAMED and said NO this has to be a dream not Momma Beautiful soo soon. The student replied by to me she wishes it was a dream as well. Ms Thomas with your passing I have not been the same. I know u are sitting high and looking low but u have left a bigh hole n my heart. I know someday u and I will put it back together. I am not able to walk pass your classroom,office nor parking spot with crying. I will truly truly miss you Momma Beautiful. I will always rmember these saysing u would always say. "THE WORST FAILURE IN LIFE IS NOT TO TRY" and "THE BEAUTIFUL THING ABOUT LEARNING IS NOBODY CAN TAKE IT AWAY FROM YOU. Momma Beautiful I know you are not suffering/hurting anymore but I have One question for you. "Why did you have to leave me so soon? May you RIP Momma Beautiful. I love you so Much always and forever :(

FROM: Inez Vannie Green
Such powerful force in the universe has been lost. A wondrous motivator and genuine angel. Prof. Thomas is and always will be missed. ♥

FROM: Micah Foster
That is crazy, she was a great motivator, She made higher learning exciting to me

FROM: Carla Miller
Love you Professor Thomas. You will be greatly missed, however, you will live on through us, your students (CEO's).

FROM: Flor Sandoval
I am so sad. A great professor at West has passed to a better place. Professor Gwen Thomas taught me so much about so many things besides business. Her personality and attitude was so beautiful. She was so smart and wise. She directed me into the right direction when I was lost. I will always have her in my heart. My condolences to the family

FROM: Mike Figo
I just seen her last Monday smh, OMG.. God rest her soul in peace.

FROM: Samuel Turner
She always had a warm spirit and had major influence on me as a student.

FROM: Ricardo Hernandez
She will be missed: (

FROM: Tammara Mencias
This woman was an awesome professor. I took Business online with her and she gave so much great advice and information that I'll never forget. Thank you Professor Thomas.. R.I.P

FROM: Misterr Searcy
I had Professor Gwen Thomas and what i can say is that this was a amazing women who care for her students very deeply with all her and was a shining beacon of light to WLAC. this is truly is a loss to all.
R.I.P Professor

FROM: Joseph R. Villa
I Would Like to Send My Heartfelt Prayers, and also, Condolences to Prof. Thomas' Entire Family, Friends, Colleagues, and also, The Students that Knew Her Very Well!! This is A Very Tragic Lost for All of Us @ W.L.A.C. May She R.I.P.; and also, Never Be Forgetten in All of Our Own Minds, and even, In Our Own Hearts, No Matter What!!

FROM: Ebony Miller
Ms. Thomas and I along with my family Nov. 14,2010 shared a beautiful time at my family event. She enjoyed the music, food, cold beverages, she spoke to almost all my family there and we had over 500 people there. she called me before and s...aid i will be there at noon, and then that following tuesday she said her farewells to me in such away you would think she knew she was passing away! she looked at me with a smirk and continue to walk to her office after she gave me a hug and said ebony I enjoyed your family I had an awesome time! Baby Girl Im so proud of you but i want to let you know I wont be here anymore! I wonder out of all her students why would she tell me this! When I stopped her and asked her MS. THOMAS WHAT DO THIS MEAN SHE LOOKED BACK AT ME AND THEIR ARISED THE SMIRK ON HER FACE AND SHE CONTINUE TO WALK...i BELIEVE IN MY HEART SHE WAS PREPARED FOR THIS JOURNEY HOME AND THATS WHY SHE TOLD ME WHAT SHE DID AND i WILL NEVER FORGET! PHENOMEANAL WOMAN YOU ARE! I promise I wont let my lights out! R.I.P. MS.Thomas you will forever remain in my heart and be forever missed and these tears I shed for you is just to let you know now I understand! Thanks for the picture we took on the nov. 14 you didnt want to take, but your always fabolous and thank you for sharing that bear hug and those last words with me and THANK YOU FOR THE IMPACT YOU HAD ON MY LIFE!!! IT'S SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE...Now I blow a Kiss TO THE SKY AND I EXHALE...