Together for 22 years, Frederick “Rick” Fowler Jr. ’84 and Justin Marc Thomas shared a passion for travel, fitness, sailing and spending time with friends. Sadly, Thomas passed away on Aug. 31, 2022, after a courageous and fearless battle with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).

Justin Thomas and Rick Fowler

Frederick “Rick” Fowler Jr. and Justin Marc Thomas

“Everyone loved Justin because of his honesty, humor and ability to bring people together,” says Fowler, who majored in business at the College of Charleston before going on to have a career in finance and business solutions. “Everyone has a favorite ‘Justin story.’ Everyone trusted him with their deepest thoughts. People felt comfortable sharing with Justin because they knew he would take care of them. There would not be any judgement … just listening and trust.”

To honor Thomas’ generous spirit and provide opportunities to future generations, Fowler has established the Justin Marc Thomas Memorial Scholarship at the College. The endowed scholarship is intended for LGBTQ+ students who exhibit financial need, particularly those who have demonstrated active support or involvement in areas of concern to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Scholarships, in general, provide important financial support to help students to pursue or continue their education,” says Courtney A. Howard, chief diversity officer and vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. “This particular scholarship is doubly important because it sends the message to students who identify as LGBTQ+ that they are welcomed and supported at the College of Charleston. Scholarships such as this say ‘We see you and we want to see you succeed.’”

“I believe that Justin’s gift will allow future LGBTQ students to bring fresh ideas about diversity to the College and the Charleston community at large,” adds Fowler. “It is planting seeds for future leaders who can move the community forward by being involved and engaged while living a personally gratifying life.”

Living close to the College of Charleston brought Thomas and Fowler onto campus almost daily, starting with their early morning runs.

“Living nearby, we walked through campus to dinner or a Spoleto event at the Cistern or the annual Charleston Affair, but ultimately the connection was to the alumni, students and visitors that the College facilitates for residents of Charleston,” he says. “These new connections have turned into lifelong friendships.”

Thomas, who was a successful real estate broker, was a best friend to many. As Gil Evans posted on Facebook, “(You were) the brightest light in the room, with the biggest smile, the loudest laugh and the most fun. You were always up for anything. You went above and beyond — not only for your friends — but also your clients, which is why you were so successful in your career and your many friendships.”

Please visit the College’s giving page to donate to the Justin Marc Thomas Memorial Scholarship.