Jean and Gary Thomas

Thomas Family Fund

Jean & Gary came from small farming families that had lived through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl years, and WWII with its severe rationing. They learned to be lifelong savers and were the first in their families to go to college, where they met at Phoenix College, the first Junior/Community College in the valley, in 1958. They’ve been married over 60 years, and now their children and grandchildren have all graduated from college.

As they delved into their genealogy, they found that their female ancestors could not own land, and when the husbands died, they had to leave it to their sons and ask them to allow the women to stay in their own homes. Colleges were for men only, and women could not file for divorce, just the men. The Comstock Act of 1873 made it illegal to send for birth control information; it was considered obscene, making it punishable by fines of up to 5 yrs in jail. Women could not hold office or even vote until 1920.

In the late 1990’s Gary & Jean made many trips to reservations in northern AZ and NM, repairing homes for the elderly. Then for the next 15 years, they volunteered regularly, building homes for low-income families with Habitat for Humanity. In 2015 they started giving scholarships to working women, either African or Native Americans, at SMCC. They believe the whole family benefits when the woman has an education, building confidence, and learning she can be independent.