Anna Thomas

Anna Thomas

Ms. Thomas established the Anna Thomas Scholarship in the 1950s to support a female student who wanted to be a physical education teacher. Anna Thomas lived her physical education profession and remained very active during her retirement. She passed away in 2006 at the age of 96. Learn more about her life below:

Anna Louise Thomas, Faculty Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, died Monday, Oct. 2, 2006. She was born Feb. 25, 1910, on the family farm near Mankato, Minn. Anna was the youngest of 12 children born to Margaret Anne (Roberts) and William R. Thomas. Anna attended Mankato schools from elementary through Mankato Teachers College. She taught one year at Eastern State Teachers College in Madison, S.D., before continuing her education at La Crosse State Teachers College, where she earned her degree in physical education in 1932. She received a master of arts degree from New York University and did further work at UCLA, Northwestern University, University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Colorado-Boulder. Anna taught at Prairie du Chien, Wis., Ashland, Wis., La Crosse Logan and Platteville State Teachers College before returning to La Crosse State Teachers College as a faculty member in 1944.

Until her retirement in 1970, Anna supervised student teaching; taught curriculum development, tests and measurements, soccer, volleyball, track and field, and other sports. She served as administrative assistant to the dean of the College of Health-Physical Education-Recreation (HPER). While on the faculty, Anna was state delegate to the International Congress of Physical Education for Sports for Girls and Women; president of the Wisconsin Association of HPER; and state director of student services for the American Association of HPER. She served on WIAA committees for Interscholastic Athletics and Girls Sports. Anna was a national officer for Delta Psi Kappa (a physical education fraternity) and, for 22 years, advisor to the local chapter. She co-authored publications for WIAA and the state Department of Public Instruction.

Delta Psi Kappa elected her National Psi Kap of the Year. WAHPER gave her their Citation Honor Award, Award of Merit and Life Membership. She was recognized in Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who in Wisconsin. She received the Governor’s Service Award, UW-La Crosse Excellence Award, UW-La Crosse Chancellors Award and the Inspiration Award from the National Association of Sports and Physical Education.

In retirement, Anna volunteered for Red Cross and mobile meals. She served for 10 years as a board member of the La Crosse County branch of the American Cancer Society. She was both proud and grateful to be twice a cancer survivor. Anna became a caregiver or mentor whenever family or friends needed her.

Anna shared her interest in history with Friends of the Library and, later, the UW-La Crosse Murphy Library. A favorite project was the establishment of the UW-La Crosse Alumni Museum, which began as a bicentennial project and grew to become a part of the Cleary Alumni Center. She maintained affiliations with Delta Kappa Gamma, La Crosse Area Retired Educators, Wisconsin Retired Educators, La Crosse County Republican Women, La Crosse County Historical Society, and the UW-La Crosse Alumni Association.

Anna enjoyed spending time on her woodland property near Mindoro, Wis. She called it her “Forty” and said it satisfied her country roots. She kept in contact and followed, with interest, the careers of her former students and the recipients of the Anna Thomas Scholarship.


This endowed scholarship has been supporting female students for more than 50 years. Anna Thomas had a tremendous impact on UWL during her tenure. She was a pioneer in the field of physical education and helped prepare hundreds of students over the years. Her legacy will continue through this scholasrhip.