Ohio Wesleyan Creates Charles Thomas Scholarship to Honor Former Student’s 115-Year Legacy
By Cole Hatcher
DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University is honoring the legacy of former student Charles Thomas – one of the first Black students in college baseball – by creating a scholarship in his name.
As an Ohio Wesleyan baseball player in the early 1900s, Thomas routinely faced discrimination during the team’s travels and competitions. His experiences and his grace inspired then-OWU head coach Branch Rickey to collaborate with Jackie Robinson in the 1940s to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
“Dr. Charles Thomas defines determination, ability, and accomplishment,” said President Rock Jones, Ph.D. “He persevered, he inspired others, and he succeeded both on and off the athletic field. After his years at Ohio Wesleyan, Dr. Thomas went on to earn his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree and spend his life aiding others. He is an enduring role model, and we are honored to remember him with the Charles Thomas Scholarship.”
For incoming students selected as Charles Thomas Scholars, Ohio Wesleyan will meet 100 percent of their demonstrated financial need during their four years at the university. Their need will be determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and be covered with merit- and need-based OWU grants, federal grants and loans, and work-study.
The Charles Thomas Scholarship also recognizes the work of Ohio Wesleyan’s community partners in helping the university to provide access and opportunity to promising students. As a result, applicants must be affiliated with a college-access program, such as College Directions, I Know I Can, and One Goal. To be considered, incoming students also must submit their Ohio Wesleyan and Charles Thomas Scholarship applications before March 1.
“Ohio Wesleyan awards more than $15 million in scholarships to our incoming students each year, and we are honored to include the Charles Thomas Scholarship among our financial aid opportunities,” said Stefanie Niles, Ed.D., vice president for enrollment and communications. “His story and his accomplishments still resonate 115 years after his OWU experience.”
Thomas earned his dental degree in 1908 from what is now The Ohio State University and opened his first practice in St. Louis, Missouri. He later moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he became one of the state’s first Black dentists. He practiced there for 40 years before retiring and moving to California.
Thomas remained a baseball enthusiast throughout his life. As a young man, he played for several “Negro baseball teams,” including the Columbus Black Tourists and Philadelphia Giants. Thomas died in 1971 at age 91.
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more undergraduate majors than many universities its size and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature program, The OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at owu.edu.