Otha Thornton, Jr.
- MS Rhetoric and Technical Communication 2001
Otha Thornton came to Michigan Tech as an ROTC officer and left as an alumnus. As Major Thornton, he served three years as an Assistant Professor of Military Science. As student Thornton, he earned a Master's in Rhetoric and Technical Communication, with his research focusing on the Army's officer evaluation system.
Thornton earned a B.A. degree in Urban Management from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1989. Since then, he has spent his career with the Army. His duties have taken him from Hawaii to Upper Michigan, from Germany to Washington D.C., where he worked as a presidential communications officer in the White House Communications Agency, located in the Executive Office Building.
In 2003 he went to Iraq as a personnel officer, basically helping to direct the "flow of people" who are being deployed there as part of the surge in the number of troops being sent to that country.
Thornton is also active in the community. He is a member of Atlanta’s West End Church of Christ and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. He is a life member of the National Eagle Scout Association and has more than 25 years of active service in the scouting program across the United States and around the world. He was named Cub Scout Leader of the Year in 2002 by the Boy Scout's Hiawatha Council. In recognition of his noteworthy achievements at such a young age, Thornton received the Alumni Association's Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2003.
In 2009 he was the keynote speaker at Michigan Tech's Spring Commencement, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters at that time. Thornton earned the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional performance in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2009-2010.
Thornton served on the National Board of Directors of the Parent Teacher Association. He was installed as President of the National PTA in June 2013 making history as the first African-American male chosen to head the 4 million member association. Under his leadership, National PTA has collaborated with prestigious organizations including the NFL and AARP. Since taking the helm, Thornton also has launched an awareness campaign to celebrate the achievements of diverse student populations and share resources and advocacy tools to help school communities address the unique needs of every child.
Thornton has been named to EBONY magazine’s Power 100 list of the nation’s most influential African-Americans and was featured in the December/January issue of EBONY, which was released in November 2013. In addition to being recognized by EBONY, Thornton was featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.
Now a retired United States Army Lieutenant , he is a senior operations analyst with General Dynamics in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Updated 2013 with information from Michigan Tech publications and PTA.ORG