Thomas Receives Distinguished University Professorship
June Manning Thomas, professor of urban planning, is one of nine University of Michigan faculty members to receive a Distinguished University Professorship, one of the university's top honors for faculty. She is the first faculty member at the Taubman College to receive this prestigious designation.
Established in 1947, Distinguished University Professorships recognize recognize full professors for exceptional scholarly or creative achievement, national and international reputation, and superior teaching skills. Each professorship bears a name determined by the appointive professor in consultation with her or his dean. June has chosen to be named the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor of Urban Planning.
Professor Thomas is a pre-eminent scholar of how racial inequality and disunity have affected the planning, evolution, and redevelopment of cities and their neighborhoods. Her work focuses on economically distressed central cities, addressing issues of planning theory and social justice. Her co-edited book Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows is a path-breaking exploration of key connections between racial injustice and urban planning. Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit won the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning’s Paul Davidoff Award for urban planning books published in in the area of social justice. She has written or co-edited three additional books related to race and poverty in Detroit and in other depopulated cities in the Midwest as well as dozens of book chapters and articles in scholarly journals. She also has written policy reports for the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.
Her recent research explores community development in Detroit and the 1960s civil rights movement in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where she helped integrate the local high school. Her research has been widely recognized by numerous academic awards including her election as a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. She is a prominent and highly effective national advocate for diversity and inclusion of under-represented faculty and students in urban planning academic programs. In 2013 she was named president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, where she encouraged greater racial diversity in the nation’s urban planning schools.
Professor Thomas is also an outstanding and inspirational teacher. She was a founding instructor for the Residential College’s Semester in Detroit program, teaching at the U-M Detroit Center from 2011 to 2015. Her graduate course in planning theory is a defining experience for many graduate students, emphasizing ethics and challenging students to consider how the planning process interacts with and affects disadvantaged communities without access to decision-makers. In recognition of her many contributions in the classroom and of her wider service on behalf of a more inclusive University, in 2014 Professor Thomas was awarded the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award.
She earned her B.A. from Michigan State University in 1970, with a major in sociology. Awarded Danforth, National Science Foundation, and Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, she entered the doctoral program in the Urban and Regional Planning Program at the University of Michigan, earning her Ph.D. in 1977 with a dissertation studying the loss of land ownership among African-Americans in South Carolina. She taught at Michigan State University before accepting a position in 2007 as the Centennial Professor in the Urban and Regional Planning Program of the A. Alfred Taubman College Architecture and Urban Planning.
For more information on the Distinguished University Professorship click here.