- BS Mechanical Engineering 1981
Tim Thomas has been an asset and ambassador for Michigan Tech long after his graduation with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1981. His connection to his alma mater has included his time, talent and treasure and led to his recognition with the University's 2020 Alumni Award for Outstanding Service.
Thomas started his career working for several companies using design, solid modeling, drafting and computer aided design (CAD) applications.
In 1992, Thomas joined a firm with seven other members, which grew to a 40-person organization in CAD Drafting software development. The firm grew to $10 million in revenue.
Thomas founded a mechanical engineering software firm in 2000, a start-up with exclusive rights to distribute Germany-based CADENAS PARTsolutions in North and South America. He served as CEO, working with many of the top companies in the world such as Boeing, Parker Hannifin, and Misumi.
Recently, Thomas took the position of Chief National Community Development Officer for Inspiring Service, a non-profit aimed at delivering technology to connect skilled volunteers and board candidates.
"I think my right brain became stronger after leaving Tech, given I really didn’t cherish equation solving. I'm more a practical engineer than a theoretical one."
Thomas' formal service to Michigan Tech began in 1997, when he was elected as co-chair by the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics External Advisory Board. He provided his industry input for the department's ABET accreditation in 2000.
After donating CADENAS PARTsolutions software to ME-EM and the first-year engineering program, Thomas and his staff provided support and training for students and faculty on the software. "I wanted to help students hit the road running after graduation," he says.
William Predebon, JS Endowed Department Chair in ME-EM, underscored the importance of Thomas' donation. "Because they've used this industry-standard software, our students have an advantage over graduates from other universities, thus making them the preferred choice to hire."
Thomas finds it important to share his life experiences with others. "I was on academic probation my first two quarters at Tech, and then I woke up!" he said. "It's not about being a 4.0 student. It's about becoming a balanced student. I worked in the ME-EM Department, was very active in my fraternity, and played intramural hockey. I wasn't the smartest guy, but I was well-rounded and humbled when I left."
In addition to his time serving on the ME-EM EAB, Thomas served on the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors from 2011–16. In 2018, Thomas worked with Predebon to establish the ME-EM Chair's Philanthropic Advisory Board to assist in fundraising for the department.
Away from work and Tech, Thomas serves as a board member at the YMCA in San Pedro, California. He is also an avid home brewer and a certified beer judge. Thomas and his wife enjoy Airstreaming in "Tiny Tin."
His advice to others: "Keep an open mind and be flexible. Being right is not as important as doing what’s right. Do the best job you can and don't look back."
Alumni Award Profile August 2020