BISMARCK – The University of Mary announced the retirement of its athletic director, Roger Thomas, effective June 30. Thomas, who has been the university’s athletic director since 2008, has had a tremendous career for the Marauders, leading the school’s athletic departments in fostering scores of top-caliber athletes to All-American citations, and making the transition to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) of the NCAA Division II from the NAIA. During the transition from Mary’s first A.D., Al Bortke, Thomas had the duty of bringing the school into compliance with its new rank.
“It’s with great pride, gratitude and humility that I have had the opportunity to serve the University of Mary and the Sisters of Annunciation Monastery during its new era of NCAA athletics—a time of great growth for our campus and our student athletes,” said Thomas. “My hope was always for our student athletes to graduate from the University of Mary as champions in their own hearts—knowing they gave it their all in the classroom, competitively in their sport and then confidently go into their communities as true servant leaders. It’s bittersweet that I come to the end of my career in athletics. Having worked with so many wonderful athletes over the years, it’s rewarding to know we helped shape their character and better serve society—and we did it the right way.”
Coach Mike Thorson said of Thomas, “Roger Thomas’s leadership has created a tremendous opportunity for coaches and athletes to excel. Roger believes in the vital role of athletics in forming character and molding young men and women into outstanding servant leaders. His contributions to the university have been invaluable. We wish him the very best in his retirement.”
Before coming to Mary, Thomas had a distinguished career at the University of North Dakota as UND’s head football coach from 1986-98 and the athletic director from 1999-2005. As the winningest football coach in UND history he compiled a record of 90-43-1 for a win percentage of .674. He guided North Dakota to five NCAA Division II postseason appearances while his team won three straight North Central Conference championships from 1993-95. Thomas was a four-time region coach of the year and a three-time NCC Coach of the Year.
As UND’s athletic director, Thomas oversaw the opening of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, Betty Engelstad Sioux Center and Alerus Center. Also under his watch North Dakota won NCAA national titles in football and men’s hockey – the latter of which earned Thomas and the UND skaters a trip to the White House and a congratulatory meeting with the president of the United States. In 2008 Thomas relocated his storied career to the University of Mary, helping to make the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
Roger Thomas has been an exemplary leader at the University of Mary, fully committed to both athletic excellence and academic achievement, and to the vital importance of athletics in building character and fostering the Benedictine values the University of Mary was founded upon.
“The University of Mary is saddened to lose an athletic director so well respected as Roger is throughout the region, but we trust that God will continue to bless us with people like him who will continue his legacy of excellence,” said Greg Vetter, executive vice president of the university. “We are grateful for his service and know that his legacy, along with our new fieldhouse and the fulfillment of Vision 2030, will signal a bright future for athletics at the University of Mary.”
A search for Thomas’ successor will begin immediately.