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Barbara L. Thomas

Barbara Louise Thomas was the president and CEO of the Chicago based National Black Master of Business Administration Association (NBMBAA). Thomas was born on December 5, 1947, in Dublin, Georgia, one of Jerrie Lee Tart and Horace Sanders’s thirteen children. Thomas was raised by foster parents Georgia and George Monroe in Dublin, where she attended segregated public schools and graduated from Oconee High School. In 1965, Thomas moved to New York City with her birth mother and took a job at Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited - Associated Community Teams (HARYOU-ACT) where she met her husband. Thomas went on to receive her B.A. degree from New York's Bernard Baruch College in 1970 and her M.B.A. degree from Columbia University in 1973.

While a university student, Thomas clerked at CBS’s Radio Division. After completing her education, Thomas moved into the CBS television division and managed network cut-ins, a position she credits with opening the door to her twenty-five year career at CBS. Eventually Thomas was the first African American woman to attend CBS’s School of Management. Thomas later became director of finance and administration for CBS, and left the network in 1989 after serving as the first African American woman to act as a senior vice-president.

Moving on from CBS to function as chief financial officer for various health care organizations and other non-profit groups, Thomas moved to Chicago in 2001 and spent two years as the chief financial officer for the NBMBAA. The board of directors of the NBMBAA appointed Thomas as president in 2003.

Citing her faith as a major sustaining force in her life, Thomas remained active in her church. Thomas raised two daughters and had five grandchildren.

Accession Number

A2005.169

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/21/2005

Last Name

Thomas

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Schools

Oconee High School

City University of New York

Baruch College

Columbia University

Susie Dasher Elementary School

CBS School of Management

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Barbara

Birth City, State, Country

Dublin

HM ID

THO09

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Sponsor

The Jay Pritzker Foundation

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

I'm Blessed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/5/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Donuts (Krispy Kreme)

Short Description

Association executive and broadcast executive Barbara L. Thomas (1947 - ) was appointed president of the National Black Master of Business Administration Association in 2003.

Employment

National Black MBA Association

Harlem United Activists for Community

CBS Radio

CBS Television Division

CBS Television Finance Division

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barbara L. Thomas' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her parents' occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her father and how she resembles him

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls Susie Dasher Elementary School and Oconee High School, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls Susie Dasher Elementary School and Oconee High School, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her experiences at Oconee High School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her extracurricular activities in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts her civil rights activity in Dublin, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her favorite television shows growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas talks about attending college and moving to New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls working for HARYOU-ACT

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls meeting her husband and their marriage in 1967

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls studying finance and obtaining her M.B.A. degree from Columbia University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her various promotions at CBS

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts her experiences at the CBS School of Management

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her retirement from CBS and subsequent roles

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts the history of the National Black MBA Association

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the activities of the National Black MBA Association

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the current climate for young black people with M.B.A.s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas details the National Black MBA Association's future plans

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her involvement with her church

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her life

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her family

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Barbara L. Thomas describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Barbara L. Thomas recounts her civil rights activity in Dublin, Georgia
Barbara L. Thomas recounts her experiences at the CBS School of Management
Transcript
Okay. And when you, well, in that part of Georgia was there any civil rights activity going on there?$$Oh, yeah, I was a naughty little girl (laughter). I did have one experience and it was really an accident. And Georgia gets very, very hot and you walk every place. I mean, you know, teenagers didn't drive their parents' cars, you, you walked. And we were not allowed to go into any of the white restaurants. And in the department stores there is a water fountain and it would say what, white and colored. But our water was always hot and it would never come up to high but the white fountains water was always high and icy cold.$$In the cooler--$$And, yeah.$$--or water cooler.$$Oh, yeah. And so one day we were cutting through the department store, Belk's Department Store on our way home and it was hot and I wanted a drink of water and I just figured no one was watching so I thought I'd steal some water from the white fountain and next thing I know the sheriff had me by the shoulders (laughter).$$The, the sheriff himself?$$The sheriff, right. He just happened to be in the, in the store. Like, I really got quite a lashing. But because he knew my father [Horace Sanders] I didn't get thrown in jail but I probably would have. So I thought since I got away with that I could get away with something else. So then there was, we used to have a drugstore and it had a soda fountain but we weren't allowed, I mean, we could go in and order if we wanted to but you had to stand over in the back, you weren't allowed to sit. And I decided one day to sit down. Well, that was the time I got taken down to the jail house. I didn't get locked up but it frightened me enough to know that I dare not do those things again. But there was a lot of picketing, you know, a lot of protesting and it started back in the '60s [1960s].$$Now did you keep up--$$In Dublin [Georgia].$$--with civil rights activity?$$Yeah, you know, as far as reading and what was going on. And I was, of course, very anxious to, you know, to participate in it but, you know. You didn't have as much going on in Dublin as you did in Atlanta [Georgia] or Macon [Georgia], the larger cities that surrounded us, you know. But our voices were, their voices were heard, you know. But my parents and foster parents [George Monroe and Georgia Monroe], you know, at that time I was back with my parents, didn't allow us to participate, you know.$Well tell us about the CBS School of Management [New York, New York]. You know, is CBS the only network to have its own school of management?$$I, I don't know. I don't know if other networks had it. But I, I, I remember us going to the old Ford mansion up in upstate New York, I can't even remember where, but I was just very surprised that I was selected and again it was the same gentleman Donald Bryan [ph.] who had watched me. And he basically said to me that he saw a lot of potential in me and he was going to help me, you know, learn the ropes and make my way up the ladder. And I received a memo saying that I had been selected to go to the CBS School of Management, which was a total shock because first of all I was black, and to me that was a very prestigious place and you didn't, you know, you didn't get to go in there. But what they did is they selected people that they felt had potential and the company wanted to invest in because they saw you as a long term employee that they could truly see the return on their investment. CBS School of Management basically taught you how to dress, how to speak, which pieces of silverware to use when you're out on a client meeting, you know. We did simulations, but with the simulations then back, if you were the president of CBS, you know, how would you run this company. So you had a full day where you were the president. These are things people are doing now that CBS was doing way back, you know, in the '60s [1960s]. It, I guess, in its, one could say that it brainwashed you because I went out and bought more pinstripe, black and blue pinstriped suits than I ever knew in my life because that was what, that was the dress. But it really prepared you to be ready to step out and meet with their key clients and negotiate business for the company. So that's really what it was all about, preparing you for that.$$Okay. So, so an emphasis on style and culture and how to--$$Exactly. Exactly. But very few people were selected to attend this, go through this. So I was very, very privileged to have had that opportunity. And it was a, you know, it was much, much more intense and I'm sort of giving you the, the high level of it but there was a lot of intense time. We were up very early in the morning, you know, to very late at night going through trainings that they had provided for us.$$How long did it last?$$I think it was about two and a half weeks of--$$And--$$--just intense. And you didn't go home to your family.$$And about what, what year was this (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) That's what I'm trying to remember. I believe, if I remember it was in 1973, I have to look at my, my award, my, that I received from them.$$All right.$$My diploma.