Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. (1944 â€“ 2013) was a cultural diversity pioneer at theÂ forefront of developing a framework for Diversity Management and innovative strategies for maximizing organizational and individual potential. He was active for more than 30 years as a consultant to numerous Fortune 500 companies, corporations, professional firms, government entities, non-profit organizations and academic institutions. He also served as a frequent speaker at national conferences and industry seminars.
As a member of a small group of American consultants and educators, he envisioned a knowledge sharing think tank for advancing diversity as a discipline for promoting organizational inclusion. The group, called the Diversity Collegium, started meeting in 1991 and included other pioneers, such as Dr. Price Cobbs. In 1984, Dr. Roosevelt Thomas founded the American Institute for Managing Diversity AIMD as a non-profit research and education enterprise. He and his staff developed a reputation as the leading source for managing diversity concepts and strategies. The team focused initially on workforce diversity. They later expanded their focus to create a diversity framework for addressing general management issues such as change management, functional coordination, the integration of multiple lines of business, and acquisitions and mergers. Dr. Thomas, Jr. then founded R. Thomas Consulting & Training, Inc. (in Decatur, Ga.)
Dr. Thomas, Jr.’s Assumption About Managing Diversity
Perhaps the most outstanding position Dr. Thomas, Jr. took in as a cultural diversity pioneer is pointing out the shortcomings of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) programs. He outlined what he referred to as the four stages of diversity management: (a) representation, (b) relationship management, (c) workforce diversity management, and (d) managing strategic diversity. Most organizations in his professional opinion continue to operate in the representation and relationships stages due to focusing too much on EEO.
His Harvard Business Review article, ‘From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversityâ€ (March-April 1990), alerted Corporate America to the shortcomings of Equal Employment Opportunity in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- The Giraffe and Elephant: A Diversity Fable (A publication of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, Inc., 2002)
- Building a House for Diversity: A Fable about a Giraffe and an Elephant offers New Strategies for Today’s Workforce (AMACOM, a division of the American Management Association, 1999)
- Redefining Diversity (AMACOM, 1996)
- Differences Do Make a Difference (AIMD, 1992)
- Beyond Race and Gender: Unleashing the Power of Your Total Work Force by Managing Diversity (AMACOM, 1991).
â€¢ From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversityâ€ (Harvard Business Review, March-April 1990).
â€¢ Diversity Management: Case of Acquisition
â€¢ Diversity Management: Implications for Employee Owned Corporations
â€¢ Diversity Management: Some Measurement Criteria;â€ Diversity Tension and Other Underlying Factors in Discrimination Suits
â€¢ Why Diversity Management?
â€¢ School Violence: From the Perspective of Diversity
â€¢ Lessons From Archie Bunker.
- D.B.A. in Organizational Behavior from Harvard University
- M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Chicago
- B.A. in Mathematics Summa Cum Laude from Morehouse College
Honors & Awards
- Phi Beta Kappa at Morehouse College
- Secretary of Morehouse College
- Dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Atlanta University
- Assistant professor at the Harvard Business School
- Instructor at Morehouse College.
- Served as President of The American Institute for Managing Diversity (AIMD).
- Elected and installed as a Fellow at the National Academy of Human Resources (1998)
- Recognized by The Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten consultants in the country
- Cited by Human Resource Executive as one of HR’s Most Influential People.
- Received the American Society for Training and Development’s Distinguished Contribution to Human Resource Development’s Award in 1995.
- Former Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) board member (2003 â€“ 2005)
- Consulted with SHRM to launch the largest U.S.-based study on the state of diversity management, leading to the 2008 publication of SHRM 2007 State of Workplace Diversity Management Report: A Call to Action.
- In 2005, Thomas received Bennett College’s Chief Diversity Officers Forum’s Trailblazer in Diversity Award.
- Cited as a Diversity Pioneer in Diversity Officer Magazine.
- Active member of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta.
- Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc. (Boule).
Dr. Thomas fell and hit his head after exercising in his home–never regaining consciousness. He died on Friday May 17, 2013. His burial took place on Friday May 24, 2013, which would have been his 69th birthday. His funeral at Friendship Baptist in Atlanta, Georgia was attended by an overflow of church members, family, and diversity practitioners from around the country.
Dr. Thomas was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His survivors include his wife of 42 years, Judge Ruby J. Thomas; sons, Shane Thomas and Jarred Thomas; daughter, April Thomas; grandson, Montre’ Thomas; brother, Robert Potts Thomas (Carol); nephews, Robert Potts Thomas, Jr. and Jason Thomas; cousins, Nola Potts and Marla Potts; a host of other nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
- Retrieved 1 JulyÂ http://diversityofficermagazine.com/diversity-inclusion/the-history-of-diversity-training-its-pioneers/ Diversity Officer Magazine. The History of the Diversity Profession and its Pioneers.
- Retrieved 1 July 2013 [http://diversitycollegium.org/PressRelease_RThomas_DivColleg_FINAL.pdf].Â The Diversity Collegium.
- Retrieved 1 July 2013 [http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/Diversity/Articles/Pages/RooseveltThomas.aspx].Â Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- Retrieved 1 July 2013 [http://www.linkedin.com/in/rooseveltthomasconsulting].Â Roosevelt Thomas, Jr.