Humble, greatness, integrity are just a few words associated with Wendell Thomas, Kentucky State Senate Sergeant-At-Arms. On Feb. 10, Thomas welcomed approximately 20 KSU staff, students, alumni and friends for Legislature Tour Day at the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda. As a special treat, these guests were invited to the Black History Month celebration, hosted by the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus, where KSU President Raymond M. Burse was the keynote speaker.
Thomas ’68 began the tour by describing the purpose of each floor and gave historical facts. This is Thomas’ fifth year overseeing the Legislature Tour Day. He says this is necessary because the state government is underutilized by KSU students, and the university is just a mile away. “There is an urgency to get more KSU students involved in government and its affairs,” Thomas says.
“We all have a responsibility to participate in government. When individuals come together as one, then you have a solidified front to change anything. But as long as you stay separate, you are already defeated,” says Thomas. “This is your property, this belongs to the taxpayers of Kentucky.”
Thomas is proud to work alongside many great KSU alumni at the Kentucky State Capitol, including the following senators – the first African-American Minority Caucus Chair Gerald Neal, Minority Whip Chair Julian Carroll and Reginald Thomas. In the state of Kentucky, African-Americans make up 6.5 percent of the population, and there are only two African-Americans out of 38 members of the Senate. Disappointed by the lack of African-American representation, Thomas says promoting awareness is one of his missions and the purpose of Legislature Tour Day.
“Go back to the community, explain the process and why you should be involved, because if you don’t, then you have nothing to complain about,” he says.
Growing up in inner-city Chicago, KSU provided nurturing, safety and protection for Thomas. He says everyone from the janitors to the faculty up to the administration took a special interest in the students.
He continues, “KSU was like the ‘Harvard model,’ where everybody had some kind of responsibility for your success. You felt that you had to succeed and you had that support.”
As the immediate past president of the K-Club, Thomas assisted in starting the KSU Athletic Hall of Fame, which annually honors former KSU student-athletes. Thomas was later inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
“Those people who have graduated are the true, devoted supporters of Kentucky State. And when they come back, or come to a banquet, one of the things they say is, ‘Oh, I love Kentucky State. Kentucky State was the best thing that has ever happened to me.’ To me, that says capital. That’s something you can sell. You can sell it to recruit other students and you can sell it to industry. So when you identify people and say ‘thank you,’ it motivates those people to give back to Kentucky State. We should have a ‘Hall of Fame’ for outstanding alumni, and we bring those people back to the campus for the student body to get to know and interact with them,” he says.
Thomas has been an active alumnus and significant supporter of KSU since 1984. During Burse’s first presidency, Thomas was on the Kentucky Council on Higher Education and Committee of Equal Opportunity. Declaring that KSU is on the edge of greatness, Thomas urges everyone to never give up on Kentucky State University.