50 Notable Alumni

Joseph L. Thomas, PhD

Assistant Professor of History of Christianity, Urbana Theological Seminary, Champaign, Illinois

Associate in Applied Science

Liberal Arts and Sciences


Joseph Thomas said he was “completely directionless” when he came to Parkland College in 1982. At the end of his first year, he switched his educational emphasis from business to the study of history, philosophy, and literature. He remarked that it was the start of his journey to become a professional historian and teacher and he graduated from Parkland in 1985 with an Associate in Arts.

Joe continued his education earning a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1988 from Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois; a Master of Arts in Theology in 1999 from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California; and finally a PhD in Christian History and Historical Theology in 2005 from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Joe is currently an Assistant Professor of History of Christianity at Urbana Theological Seminary in Champaign, Illinois.

Other notable accomplishments for Joe include being author of a Perfect Harmony: Interracial Churches in Early Holiness-Pentecostalism, 1880-1909, Emeth Press, 2014; history consultant for The Torchlighters Series, a children’s history animation series that is the winner of 25 film awards and produced by the Christian History Institute; history consultant for the creation of a Christian History Tour in Switzerland for American travelers in 2007; and Executive Director for the New Judah Christian School Project – helping to raise $5 million dollars for the “Gene A. Salmon Field of Dreams,” the new Judah Christian School athletic complex in Champaign, Illinois.

Joe’s most memorable moment at Parkland, “…occurred the first semester of my second year. Parkland’s openness to the marketplace of ideas allowed Christian ministry groups to operate freely on campus. It was at Parkland that I read the New Testament for the first time and eventually affirmed the Christian faith. For over 30 years I have been researching, writing, teaching, and creating stories about the men and women who make up the story of Christianity. I am forever grateful that Parkland provided the space for me to find my educational and life footing.”