Jim Thomas ’74, Mapping the Future

 Jim graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and his time at Florida Tech had him involved in many student activities. His experiences here, including his technology-based curriculum, presidency of the Student Government Association, and leadership development in his fraternity bolstered an entrepreneurial spirit he describes as “embedded in Panther DNA.” With a keen eye for the next big thing, Jim led a host of fledgling companies across the globe, serving as chief operations officer, chief financial officer, and division president. He steered early-growth companies into successful business operations with value-based cultures. His vision as a business executive helped lead MapQuest through its initial public offering.

In 1996, as a pioneer in the software-as-a-service business model, Jim’s vision and belief in the growth of applications of new technology led him to a field with fascinating potential. Jim, pictured standing in the energy storage R&D lab, is currently the vice president of corporate development at Rivian Automotive. Rivian is a technology company advancing the shift to electric, autonomous, and shared mobility with its electric vehicles incorporating a cloud-based digital architecture, self-driving platform, and advanced battery system in its all-electric adventure vehicles. Jim is also a member of the board of directors for Modus Operandi, a high-tech software company providing information-based intelligence solutions, and a founding board member of the Illinois Autonomous Vehicle Association.

“Identifying the next big thing means being alert to the early shifting of mores and being ready to accept change, even if it means letting go of something you have shaped and molded. Managing change may require challenging, embracing or creating new technologies and/or business models that have traditionally been successful and persuading those who think these things will never become obsolete to accept that change,” he said.

Jim has been a member of multiple boards of directors for public, private, and nonprofit organizations, and in 2005, he was named to Florida Tech’s Board of Trustees. During his nearly decade-long tenure on the board, he served as secretary and vice chairman, helping guide Florida Tech through an important period of growth and development.

Jim’s accomplishments have been recognized with many honors, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Pennsylvania, Technology Council of Pennsylvania Technology

Champion Award, Congressional Medal of Merit for Lifetime Achievement in Technology, and the Pi Kappa Alpha Order of the West Range for outstanding alumni. Closest to the hearts of fellow Panthers, Jim was Florida Tech’s Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni recipient in 2017.

Jim was recently featured in Florida Tech Magazine’s Spring 2019 feature story about his work at Rivian.

Jim was also featured in Florida Tech’s 60th Anniversary special edition book, “60 for 60: Celebrating Sixty Years of Alumni at Florida Institute of Technology.” Copies are available for purchase here.

Jim Thomas is the 2017 recipient of the Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni Award. The Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes an alumnus or alumna whose career accomplishments honor the university’s legacy of excellence. 

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