Gwen-Marie Thomas, an professor in the business department at West Los Angeles College was found dead in her home; the cause of death is pending.
Noted and known for always being immaculately coifed and flawlessly made-up, the Memphis native taught her students in a way that gave them a real taste of the world of business and management.
“I met her at the Los Angeles Black Business . . . she would bring students from West L.A. to volunteer every year . . . I really think they got a lot out of the business expo every year, and they were actually a big help to us as well,” said Isidra Person-Lynn who handled public relations duties for the Expo.
But Thomas did not just expose students to new experiences, she took people like Person-Lynn under her wing as well.
“After watching me do this for years, she said ‘you need to come over to the college and teach business communications to the students’.”
Person-Lynn did just that, and that move put her into proximity to benefit from more of Thomas’ guidance.
“She tapped, me and some others; she pulled us together and mentored us over at her house; giving us tips on what to do and how to do it. And she would give little gifts–she was so giving,” remembers Person-Lynn, who said she was shocked, when she received information on Thomas’ death.
A veteran educator with more than three decades of experience under her belt, Thomas taught more than 22 years at the school she also graduated from. And what makes her story even sweeter is that she enrolled at West L.A. at age 26. Then after graduation, went on to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal State University Dominquez Hills.
In 2009, her dedication to teaching business and her leadership in promoting women’s issues was recognized, when she was selected as one of only 42 women from around the world to attend the historic Oxford Round Table at the University of Oxford in England. At the event, she chaired panel discussions on “Motivation and Unethical Behavior: Are There Gender Differences” and “What Does Research Reveal About Gender Discrimination in Institutions of Higher Learning.
Although she held numerous posts at her college including vice president of the business department, Thomas was very active in the community and after the civil unrest of 1992 founded a literacy program called West Angeles Literacy Empowerment Team (WALET).
WALET taught homeless individuals, inmates and adults to read and write and also incorporated life-skills training.
Person-Lynn said Thomas enjoyed her life traveling and mentoring people, and her motto, according to a student website at the college was quite simple: The greatest failure in life is not to try.”
Information on funeral services was pending at press time.