Building a Good Foundation

Michelle Manley Thomason ’92

Her University of Mobile education gave Michelle Manley Thomason a good foundation – one that ultimately landed her a seat on the bench as the presiding district judge in Baldwin County, Alabama. Now the 1992 graduate is excited about reconnecting with her alma mater to serve on the first Board of Directors of the new University of Mobile Foundation.

“I love the direction the university is going with Dr. (Tim) Smith and the vision he has for the school and its place in the Mobile and Baldwin communities. I’m excited about being a part of that,” Thomason said.

After wrapping up eight years in statewide leadership roles on the executive board of the Alabama District Judges’ Association, Thomason had some extra hours available in her busy schedule.

“I feel like I’m able to choose right now what I want to spend my volunteer time on,” she said. She didn’t have to look far to find a worthy cause.

“The school really holds a meaningful place in our family’s lives,” she said. She was a non-traditional student, going to school full-time at night to earn a Bachelor of Science in business administration while working a full-time day job. At the same time, her stepson, Danny, was a student on campus. Both of her stepsons and her son are UM graduates, and all met their wives at UM.

“I don’t know that I could have done it anywhere else, with the responsibility of being a parent and wife and working full time. The emphasis is so much on the student at University of Mobile, and the student’s success. Being able to meet and communicate well with my professors and faculty and staff at the university allowed me to fully succeed in a way I hadn’t before at a larger school,” she said.

With a decade in banking and a new business degree, Thomason was accepted to Tulane University Law School. She earned her Juris Doctor and was admitted to the Bar in 1995. She was a partner in the law firm of Pearson, Cummins & Hart and practiced civil defense litigation as well as family law for over 11 years before taking the bench.

Today, she finds that her business degree provides a unique foundation for many of the judicial decisions she makes, giving her a particular insight that is not often found on the bench.

Her business background comes into play when she must make decisions for families that are separating, a circumstance much like the dissolution of a business partnership.

Both her business and judicial background will be an asset to the University of Mobile Foundation when it launches in January.

“Our primary goal is to build a rock-solid financial base for future growth and projects of the university. We are focusing on growing the endowment so we can continue to grow the campus, programs and academic colleges,” she said.

“There are already plans in the works for adding other graduate programs for the school, and all of that takes money to accomplish. The Board of Trustees needs to focus on other key decisions and not be bogged down on the financial part.”

ITAL – Are you interested in investing your time, talents or resources at University of Mobile? Contact the Office for Advancement at advancement@umobile.eduor 251.442.2587 to learn how you can get involved.

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean uses her passion for storytelling and "playing with words" to share the stories of people, place and purpose that make the University of Mobile unique. As associate vice president for university communications, she manages media relations, edits the TorchLight alumni magazine, and oversees university communications. A former award-winning journalist, she is a two-time recipient of the Baptist Communicators Association grand prize for feature writing. Kathy and her husband, Chuck, live with three extremely loud miniature schnauzers.