Author, attorney, minister, educator and community leader Oliver “Buzz” Thomas will be speaking at the Appalachian College Association (ACA) Honors Conference to be held on the Tusculum College campus in April.
Thomas will be the keynote speaker at a dinner on Friday evening, April 17, during the two-day conference. The public is invited to attend the dinner, which will begin at 6 p.m. in the Chalmers Conference Center.
“Preparing Students for Life on a Different Planet” will be Thomas’ topic as he discusses the academic and civic challenges facing young Americans in the 21st century.
Thomas is executive director of the Niswonger Foundation of Greeneville, which has education as its focal point and mission. In addition to his work at the Foundation, he has taught First Amendment law at Georgetown University Law Center. Thomas has also lectured at such universities as Harvard and Notre Dame. He has served on the Maryville Board of Education, including completing three years as its chairman. Thomas has provided training to teachers and administrators from more than 500 school districts across the country.
As an attorney, Thomas has practiced at every level of state and federal courts including the U.S. Supreme Court. His clients have included the National Council of Churches, Southern Baptist Convention and Children’s Defense Fund. He has appeared as an expert witness before the Judiciary Committees of the United States Congress on many occasions.
As an author, Thomas co-authored “The Right to Religious Liberty.” He also co-authored “Finding Common Ground,” the First Amendment handbook endorsed by the Department of Education and used in many of the nation’s public schools. His articles have appeared in a variety of national publications, and he has been a guest commentator on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, C-Span, and National Public Radio. He is also a regular contributor to USA Today.
Thomas is also the author of “10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You (But Can’t Because He Needs the Job),” which discusses challenging issues for the contemporary church. Thomas discussed some of the issues covered in the book as the featured speaker for the successful 2008 Theologian-in-Residence at Tusculum College, which is sponsored by the Holston Presbytery and the college. As a minister, Thomas has served churches in Tennessee and Louisiana.
Thomas is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Tennessee where he graduated first in his class. He earned a Master of Divinity from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he also graduated first in his class and was chosen as the school’s outstanding divinity student. Thomas received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee College of Law where he was Order of the Coif and earned his Master of Law from the University of Virginia.
This is the second year that Tusculum will be hosting the conference, which addresses topics and issues of interest to faculty and staff members who work with academic honors programs at colleges in the ACA.
The cost for the dinner is $20 and reservations are required. Please RSVP by Wednesday, April 1. For more information or to make reservations, please call 423-636-7300 ext. 5650.