Thomas F. George served as chancellor and professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Missouri–St. Louis (UMSL) from 2003 until his retirement in 2019. As the university's longest serving chancellor, he oversaw the academic and administrative operations of a university with 17,000 students, 2,500 faculty and staff, 40 academic buildings and a $200 million annual operating budget. In addition, $150 million of new capital construction, renovation and landscaping on campus took place during 2015-17. The annual amount of philanthropic contributions during his tenure as chancellor quadrupled to over $28 million, reaching as high as $31 million in 2014.
Throughout George's 16 years of leadership at UMSL:
- UMSL had a total enrollment of 311,810 students – an average of 20,787 unduplicated students per year across the fall, spring and summer semesters – and the university awarded more than 46,000 degrees. George celebrated UMSL’s 100,000th graduate in May 2018.
- Total research grants totaled $337.7 million and the university raised $347.7 million in philanthropic support.
- The university twice earned reaffirmation of its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
- Through the help of key legislators and the UM System to address a long-standing problem of unequal distribution of state funds to UMSL, the overall annual state operating budget was increased by $8.6 million (in addition to across-the-board adjustments to higher education).
- The university opened Oak Hall, the Recreation and Wellness Center, the Science Learning Building, the Patient Care Center, and Anheuser-Busch Hall. UMSL also completed a renovation of Benton Hall and opened a facility in Grand Center that serves as the home to St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU. In addition, George helped secure $14 million to redesign Natural Bridge Road, which runs through the heart of the UMSL campus, and through a private donation, the 118-acre Normandie Golf Course located next to campus was purchased which increased the campus size by a third.
- UMSL welcomed the world headquarters of Express Scripts Inc. – now Cigna – onto its campus, and the resulting partnership included support for the UMSL Bridge Program and scholarships for students.
- UMSL expanded its reach globally, growing its relationships and cooperative programs with Nanjing University in China, Modern College of Business and Science in Oman, and Gulf University of Science and Technology in Kuwait.
Throughout his tenure at UMSL, George was active in the St. Louis community. He received the Distinguished Higher Education Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Missouri State Celebration Commission; the Outstanding Community Service Award from the St. Louis County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the Lifelong Vision Award from the Lifelong Vision Foundation of St. Louis; the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the National Eagle Scout Association; and the Silver Beaver Award, Good Scout Award, Cosmos Award and Alumnus of the Year Award from the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Specifically with respect to St. Louis North County, he was named the Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, and he received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the North County Churches Uniting for Racial Harmony and Justice, the Paul F. Detrick Legacy Leadership Award from the Christian Hospital Foundation Board, and the Public Service Leadership Award from North County Inc.
George served on numerous civic boards, including nine years as chair of the Higher Education Consortium of Metropolitan St. Louis and four years as chair of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (athletics). In addition to his role as campus and community leader and fund-raiser, George contributed at the state and national levels, such as serving as vice-chair of the Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri and as president of the Coalition of Metropolitan and Urban Universities (comprised of 100 institutions across the US and Canada).
An active researcher in chemistry and physics, George specializes in chemical/materials/laser/nanophysics, including nanomedicine. His work, supported by a wide variety of federal and international agencies, has led to 800 papers, 9 authored and 27 edited books, and 237 conference abstracts. He was awarded the Marlow Medal by the Royal Society of Chemistry in Great Britain and named a fellow in various professional organizations (New York Academy of Sciences, American Physical Society, Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, American Association for the Advancement of Science) and foundations (Dreyfus, Sloan, Guggenheim). He was elected as a foreign member of the Korean Academy of Science and Technology, and he held the title of visiting professor in the College of Science at Korea University in Seoul. His research was acknowledged with an honorary doctorate in physics (honoris causa) from the University of Szeged in Hungary as well as an honorary doctorate in education for locality development from Phranakhon Rajabhat University in Thailand. He was also awarded the Medal of Honor from Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait and the Diploma of Honour from Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences in Finland.
An accomplished jazz pianist, George studied with faculty at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He has performed extensively in public, including performances at various venues in the states of New York, Washington, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois; the University of Arkansas; Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania; Nanjing University and Northwestern Polytechnical University in China; city of Szeged in Hungary; West University of Timisoara in Romania; Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait; University of Sarajevo in Bosnia; University of Dubrovnik in Croatia; Cultural Club in Muscat, Oman; and Russian Siberia. He has released several compact discs, including two featuring women jazz composers and one featuring tunes composed by Hoagy Carmichael.
Born in Philadelphia, George became an Eagle Scout at age 14 (with bronze/gold/silver palms and Order of the Arrow) and received his high school diploma (with honors) from Friends' Central School, where he earned varsity letters in soccer and wrestling. He received a bachelor of arts (Phi Beta Kappa) with a double major in chemistry (with honors) and mathematics (with honors) from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. He earned a master of science and doctor of philosophy in theoretical chemistry from Yale University at age 23, followed by postdoctoral appointments at MIT and UC Berkeley. After joining the faculty at the University of Rochester, he was promoted at age 29 to full professor of chemistry. He then served as dean of natural sciences and mathematics at SUNY–Buffalo, provost at Washington State University, chancellor at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, and from 2003 to 2019 as chancellor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
George's spouse, Dr. Barbara Harbach, is Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emerita of Music, former chair of the Department of Music, director of the School of Fine and Performing Arts, and director of Women in the Arts at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. She held prior academic appointments at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Washington State University and SUNY-Buffalo. A prolific composer and musician who has performed worldwide, Harbach founded Women in the Arts-St. Louis and co-founded and served as senior editor of WomenArts Quarterly Journal. She also founded Vivace Press, a music publishing company renowned for its interest in works by women and other traditionally under-represented composers. In 2016, she was chosen as one of the 30 Most Innovative Women Professors Alive Today as well as ranked as the number one female organist.