M. Ladd Thomas

Professor Emeritus, Political Science

M. Ladd ThomasProfessor Emeritus M. Ladd Thomas joined the Political Science Department at NIU in 1963 after earning his B.A. and his M.A. from the University of Utah and his Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Soon after arriving on campus, he was appointed by the dean of the college as the first head of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), now a federally designated and funded National Resource Center. Colleagues’ praise of his accomplishments in that post is specific: “More than any other individual associated with NIU, Professor Thomas is responsible for the establishment and consolidation of NIU’s flagship Center for Southeast Asian Studies.”

In addition to leadership of the CSEAS, Dr. Thomas was a key figure in the college’s significant contributions as an early Peace Corps training site for Southeast Asia. He also served as chair of the Department of Political Science and as a highly sought-after mentor of graduate students, directing numerous dissertations. Colleagues attest that “The strength of both CSEAS and the Department of Political Science, in particular Thai Studies, rests on the hard work of Professor Thomas, an iconic pioneer scholar of the college.”

Dr. Thomas is a widely published authority in Southeast Asian politics and governments, particularly Thailand. His areas of expertise also include Development Administration, especially administration of rural development programs in Southeast Asia, and International Relations, particularly foreign policies and security concerns of selected Southeast Asian countries.

Dr. Thomas has secured several grants from the federal government, including a large grant to study the Malays in southern Thailand, and earned numerous honors throughout his career. He has served as a senior Fulbright Scholar to both the Philippines and Thailand. In 1986, the King of Thailand awarded him with the prestigious Crown of Thailand medal for research and other academic as well as advisory contributions to Thailand. In 2001, he was honored as one of the first two NIU faculty members to receive NIU’s Outstanding International Education Award from the Division of International Programs. In 2008, the president of Thailand’s National Institute of Development Administration declared Dr. Thomas a founder of that Institute.