January 6, 2021 | By Jake Weber
Former Albion College President Bernard T. Lomas, ’46, passed away December 24, 2020 in Grand Rapids at the age of 96. Lomas was the College’s 12th president, serving from 1970 to 1983.
A native of Mackinaw City, Mich., Lomas spent many years in ministry, giving his last decade of service at the Epworth Euclid United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Despite the distance and demands of that profession, Lomas was also devoted to his alma mater. At the time of his appointment to the Albion presidency, he was a member of the College’s Board of Trustees and had previously held a leadership position in the Alumni Association. Upon his retirement, Lomas also became the College’s first chancellor, continuing his service to Albion well into the 1980s.
Lomas’ presidency inspired the creation in 1971 of the Bernard T. Lomas Project 250 Scholarship, a $250,000 endowment established entirely through the efforts of students in honor of his inauguration. This year marks the 50th anniversary of P250, which remains one of Albion’s top awards recognizing students who make exceptional contributions to academic and co-curricular leadership.
“He was a dear man. He was a minister, but really, he was a politician,” says Lyn Ward Healy, ’72, one of the Student Senate leaders who organized the P250 endowment drive. “We did this fundraiser, ‘Beefsteak for Bernie,’ and I think he was kind of horrified; he was always ‘Bernard T. Lomas,’ and never ‘Bernie.’ But he was a good sport about it.”
Ward Healy further explains that the $250,000 goal was selected because the Student Senate believed students needed an “audacious” project to pursue amid a turbulent period both in the country and on campus—the war in Vietnam was still raging, and the Kent State University shootings had happened just months earlier.
“Dr. Lomas came at a contentious time,” she says. “We needed something positive. I know Dr. Lomas was thrilled to be part of it.”
Honors Program and Professional Management Program (now the Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management) were established during his tenure, along with the originally named Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Service, believed at the time to be the first such program in the country for undergraduate students.Unwavering in his commitment to the liberal arts tradition, Lomas also embraced educational and experiential opportunities that took students beyond the classroom. The
Lomas also saw the first student participation in international internship programs, the establishment of practicums in psychology and healthcare, and academic concentrations in computer science, human services and mass communication.
The College completed a $15 million capital campaign during his tenure, resulting in the addition of Mudd Learning Center, Olin Hall, Herrick Theatre, Dean Aquatic Center and Sprankle-Sprandel Stadium to the campus. The Whitehouse Nature Center was also created during that time.
And Lomas would continue to peer into possibilities for Albion years after his retirement.
“Dr. Lomas never stopped beating the drum for Albion College,” says Jim Whitehouse, ’69, recalling a visit to the Lomases at their North Carolina home in 1995. “I told them I was an astronomy enthusiast and Dr. Lomas immediately took me next door to meet the neighbors, Bill and Lois Stellman, who had a beautiful 14-inch telescope mounted in an observatory above their garage. Five minutes after we arrived, that telescope and its expensive mounting apparatus became the property of Albion College! A year later, the Stellmans supported the building of an enclosure to house the instrument on the roof of Palenske Hall, where it has been in continuous use since.”
Lomas excelled in fiscal leadership, taking just two years to bring the College to a budget surplus that lasted for the remainder of his presidency. He further oversaw enrollment growth to an average student population near 1,800 in the 1970s.
Lomas’ civic engagement included serving on the Albion Improvement Committee, the American Cancer Society of Calhoun County, and the board of directors for Albion-Jackson City Bank and Trust. During his presidential tenure, he further was a consultant to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and held leadership roles with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, the Great Lakes Colleges Association, the Michigan Colleges Foundation and the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Presidents’ Committee.
Lomas’ wife of 72 years, Barbara, passed away December 27, 2019. They are survived by their son Paul Lomas and Gayle Smith Lomas ’74, three grandchildren including Torrey Lomas, ’09, three great-grandchildren, and extended family member Suzanne Scrutton, ’86, and Jennifer Scrutton Culbertson, ’88. Bernard and Barbara's son David Lomas, '73, passed away in 2004.
“Bernard and I both spoke at [longtime Director of Admissions] Frank Bonta’s funeral in 2017. He spoke without notes and it was on target and as good as I’ve ever heard him,” recalls retired Albion men’s basketball coach Mike Turner, ’69, who guided the Britons to the NCAA Division III Final Four in 1978 during Lomas’ tenure. “Usually when you talk to Bernard, it’s an hour. But he stuck to his four minutes. He was sharp right to the end.”