Donald Thomas, 1926-2019

M. Donald Thomas (Mario Donato diTommaso) was born in Bugnara, Italy on April 21, 1926. He died on April 7, 2019 in Salt Lake City.

Don lived in a one-room home in Italy until he was 6 years old, when his family moved to the United States. He earned his doctorate in educational administration from the University of Illinois and served as superintendent of schools in Illinois, New York, California, and Utah.

He proudly served as superintendent of schools in Salt Lake City from 1973 to 1984 and was an educational consultant to three governors, Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev and hundreds of public school districts until late in life. He continued to write opinion pieces on education for the Salt Lake City newspapers until six months ago.

Don’s dedication to public education earned him several awards including the Civil Rights Worker of the Year Award (1978) and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Citation (2013) from the Utah Chapter of the NAACP, the George Washington Medal for Character Education in the Salt Lake City Schools (1983), and the Educator of the Year Award from the Horace Mann League (1997).

He was blessed by marriage to three talented women: Carol Ostby, Frances Gaylord and Janet Coleman. He had unconditional love for his wives, his children and his parents, Pasquale Luigi diTommaso and Rosina Manna diTommaso, who taught him to be ethical, oppose discrimination, help others, and appreciate life.

He was extremely proud of the achievements of his two brothers: Louis Thomas, Jr. and Andrea diTommaso, both honored educators.

His greatest accomplishments in life were love and respect for his three children, Marc, Marcia and David; promotion of public education as the basis for an effective democracy; and helping disadvantaged children to obtain a quality education.

Dr. Thomas is survived by his wife, Janet; brothers, Louis and Andrea; sons, Marc and David; daughters-in-law, Judi Simon and Nancy Allf; granddaughters, Annie Snider, Katie Husby, Elizabeth George, Virginia Hollmann, Elizabeth Walker and Kaitlyn Thomas; seven talented great-grandsons, and a special great-granddaughter.

His parents, his former wives, Carol and Frances, and his beloved daughter, Marcia, preceded him in death.

Family and friends are welcome to attend a celebration of Don’s life at 11 a.m. May 11, 2019 at Calvary Baptist Church,1090 S. State Street in Salt Lake City, Utah.Arrangements entrusted to Starks Funeral Parlor. Please share photos and memories with the family at

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Don’s name to Calvary Baptist Church, 1090 S. State Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, P.O. Box 25414, Salt Lake City, UT 84125, or to a charity.