IS Alumnus Donald Thomas' poetry collection on exhibit at the UNT Libraries

In commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of America’s 1917 entry into WWI, the UNT Libraries has mounted an exhibit, The Lost Generation: World War I Poetry from the Donald Thomas War Poetry Collection.

The collection contains over 900 volumes focusing on war poetry, specifically English and American poetry related to World War I. Although, the collection includes many well-known poets, the strength of the collection is in works produced by lesser-known poets, which were less frequently collected by libraries and difficult, if not impossible, to find today. It features first editions of works by the “Soldier Poets” such as Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Robert Graves, as well as examples of patriotic poetry, poetry by women in the war effort and poetic responses from home. The collection was featured in a recent Spring issue of Fine Books Magazine.

The Donald Thomas War poetry collection was acquired by UNT in 2015. Donald Thomas is a UNT alum who graduated in 1972 with a Master’s in Library & Information Science. “We are so happy he has chosen to continue his association with UNT by placing his collection here at the library,” said Morgan Gieringer, head of special collections at UNT Libraries.

Born in Dallas, Texas, Thomas enlisted in the U. S. Navy on his 17th birthday. He served on several Navy shore establishments, two Seabee battalions, the Marines, and three ships, before being ordered to Vietnam in 1968. There he served as part of the Naval Medical Unit Self-Contained Transportable ONE, a joint Navy and Marine Corps crew. Mr. Thomas was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with Combat “V” for his service in Vietnam.

After graduating from UNT, he briefly joined the library faculty of the University of Arizona before being accepted for commissioning in the Navy Medical Service Corps in 1973. In his first commissioned position of Assistant Chairman of the Educational Resources Department at the Naval Graduate Dental School, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, his duties included the management of the professional library.  He later assumed the Chairmanship of the Financial Management Department at the Naval Graduate Dental School for three years. After this Bethesda tour of duty, Mr. Thomas, headed medical recruiting programs in southwestern states and commanded two Naval medical units prior to his Navy retirement in 1986.

Following Navy retirement, Mr. Thomas pursued his interest in librarianship. He served as medical/dental reference librarian at the Baylor Health Sciences Library and later joined the library faculty at Texas A&M University before taking an administration position at the Harris County Public Library where he was responsible for Financial Services for 26 libraries as an Assistant Director. He held that position for 15 years before retirement in 2005. During the 40 years’ Mr. Thomas has been a collector, he has established relationships with booksellers overseas and became quite adept at finding “hidden treasures.” He continues to search for war poetry for the University of North Texas. He anticipates to add 100 volumes in 2017.

The exhibition runs through May 11. An online presentation is also available at http://exhibits.library.unt.edu/wwi-poetry.

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