Memorial service honors late art administrative assistant

A cold and grey January afternoon, the trees on campus seemed barren of life, the grieving met inside the Liberal Art Center to celebrate the life of Virginia Thomas.

The art department’s longtime administrative assistant died on Nov. 18, a month shy of her birthday. Thomas would have been 72 years old.

Interim Art and Design Chair Katie Waters previously told The Shield in November that a university memorial made the most sense because Thomas “knew everyone at the university.”

Thomas attended Ivy Tech in Chicago where she earned her associate degree in business administration.

Haviland Cardinal
College of Liberal Arts Dean James Beeby greets mourners at a memorial service for Virginia Thomas.

Virginia, or as many lovingly called her “Gigi,” began working for the university in 2002.  In her 16 years at USI she impacted many members of the faculty as well as students from an array of departments.

“She is the reason many students graduated with degrees,” said Hilary Braysmith, professor of art history.

The memorial service was held on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Dozens of students, faculty, family and alumni were attendance.

Surrounded by the works in the Mccutchan Art Center And Pace Galleries, reminiscent of her administrative office, many people took to the stage to share their happiest memories of Thomas’ spirit, life and compassion.

The song “Stand By Me” echoed through the gallery, and laughs were shared through the tears for over two hours.

“Virginia’s name was and is synonymous with the word love…she’s expecting us to carry on her legacy,” executive director of the Multicultural Center Pam Hopson said.

Amongst all the warmth inside, still stood the dormant winter trees. Those trees, like the loss of Thomas, is visually apparent. However, under the surface, there is a spark, a life unbeknownst to us during the cold and grey times.

“The art department isn’t as bright as it used to be, but she’ll always be there,” said art student worker Olivia Supper.