March 28, 2014

Riverside Awards La Sierra's Thomas for Innovation


Thomas, dean of La Sierra University’s Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business
defines innovation as thinking outside of the box, of seeing things that others
miss. It is a mindset he strives to instill in students.

defines Thomas’s own life, including his 15-year leadership of the business
school which last fall moved into a $16 million, 60,200-square-foot facility
recognized for its architectural design. On Feb. 11 Thomas was recognized for
his creative thinking, integrity, compassion and entrepreneurship by Riverside
Mayor Rusty Bailey as the Mayor’s Innovation Honoree for that month. The
ceremony, held during a Riverside City Council meeting was attended by La
Sierra University President Randal Wisbey, Provost Steve Pawluk, and Thomas’
family and friends.

learned of the award by way of a letter from Bailey who cited Thomas’ “tireless
work to challenge today’s business students to understand the importance of
creativity, innovation, and leadership [as] a key element to strengthening our
entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

said he was “appreciative for the recognition and thankful to all those who
help me think outside the box.”

In a
statement the city described Thomas as an “effective administrator, teacher and
scholar” who radically redefined the business school’s mission “to incorporate
a focus on global service and entrepreneurial creativity and identifying
distinctive market niches ideally suited to its traditions, commitments, and

spearheaded fundraising efforts for the new business school over 10 years. The
new, spacious building includes an Innovation Lab with Makerbot 3D printers,
the Troesh Conference Center, which will host a TEDxLaSierraUniversity event on
April 24, and two startup garages where students can incubate their ideas and
pursue new businesses.

who holds a doctorate in political economy from Claremont Graduate University,
has been a member of La Sierra’s business faculty since 1988. He has taught
courses in entrepreneurship, management, economics and finance. Presently he
serves as the Basshir Hasso Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and teaches
a senior capstone class in entrepreneurship in which students start new
ventures and seek funding. He also sits on the boards of at least ten
businesses and organizations including Genelux, Family Services of Riverside,
Loma Linda Broadcasting Network, 89.7 KSGN Christian radio, among others.

took leadership of the business school in 1999. Under his direction the
school’s mission emphasized entrepreneurial creativity and social change captured
in the motto, “Create Value. Make a difference.” Thomas established centers in
philanthropy, conflict resolution and finance, and led an increase in
enrollment with off-campus delivery of the MBA program at multiple locations.
Additionally the school’s Students In Free Enterprise team (now Enactus)
captured four national titles and two world cups. The school of business posted
record enrollment in fall 2012 with more than 500 students in total. Over the
next decade Thomas foresees the Zapara School of Business achieving
accreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
and an enrollment of about 1,000 students.

own experiences in entrepreneurship took root in 1986 when he took over
management of the local Cash & Carry, a failing drive thru, and turned it
around to make a profit allowing him to graduate debt free.

said he enjoys competition and “being an underdog and or a misfit. It motivates
me to try harder and work longer. I also enjoy inspiring possibility.”

definition of innovation is doing things differently. I enjoy taking ideas to
market and most of the courses I teach are focused on helping students think
about the possibilities,” he said. “Business students need to learn to create,
collaborate and compete and not accept the world as it is.”