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[November 1, 2005]

Martha J. Thomas Passes; Was Former Assistant Vice President For Community And Governmental Relations At SUNY Downstate Medical Center In Brooklyn

Martha J. (Cain) Thomas, former assistant vice president for community and governmental relations at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, passed away suddenly on October 24. She retired from SUNY Downstate in December 2003.

Ms. Thomas was the official campus governmental relations officer for SUNY Downstate and was involved in strategic planning with other senior managers. She also developed institutional positions on health and education legislation and was the liaison between the academic medical center and the community.

John C. LaRosa, M.D., president of SUNY Downstate, said, “Martha's contributions to Downstate and to Brooklyn were legion. Her colleagues and her countless friends will miss her greatly.”

Ms. Thomas joined Downstate as an editorial assistant in 1977. After two years she left to become press secretary for the late State Senator Leon Bogues. She returned to Downstate four years later, serving at various times both as director of community relations and of media relations. Prior to coming to Downstate, Ms. Thomas was a Michele Clarke Fellow at Columbia University and a television reporter at two Florida stations: WCTV in Tallahassee, where she was the first Black female correspondent, and WJXT in Jacksonville. She also worked in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the Public Affairs Department during the building of the World Trade Center before joining Downstate.

Ms. Thomas was born in Blakely, Georgia, and was raised in the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey. She was the first Black cheerleader at East Side High School in Newark, and the first in her family to graduate college (Adelphi University in Garden City, New York).

A published writer and a playwright who wrote about important issues of Black family life, Ms. Thomas's work has been produced on Manhattan's Theater Row and in Harlem; Brooklyn; Phoenix, Arizona; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and Greensboro, North Carolina. At the time of her death, she was at work on a new play. Two of her works are due to be produced next spring. Her plays include Whatever Gets You Through, From Good Stock, Benefits, and Somebody's Baby. She co-authored Just Do Next Saturday and co-produced The Diva and the Rapper.