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Judith Thomas, Ph.D.

June 5, 2018

Dr. Judith Wayne Thomas passed away peacefully on June 5, 2018 in her home at the age of 79.

She is survived by her husband, Jerry Griffin, her children, Elizabeth Wayne Thornberry Maher, Richard Lancaster Thornberry, Katy Thornberry McNulty, her grandchildren Sean Milo Maher and Cassidy Wayne Maher, her brother BC Thomas, her stepchildren Nicholas Griffin, Rachel Griffin and Catherine Griffin, and her cousin Carla Beckerly.

Judith was born July 1, 1938 in Denison, Texas and attended Denison High School. She studied Religion at Texas Wesleyan and received her Bachelor’s in English with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Southern Methodist University. She later earned a Doctorate of Sociology from Columbia University.

In 1965, Judith traveled with her first husband, Milo Thornberry, to serve as Methodist Missionaries to Taiwan. During their time in Taiwan, she and Milo became involved in covert human rights efforts during the era of Chiang Kai Sheik's “White Terror” (1949-1987). They worked with political dissidents including cooperative efforts with Amnesty International and the American Friends Service Committee. Their work most notably included the planning and successful escape of former political prisoner and democracy activist Dr. Peng Ming-Min. She and her family were deported back to the U.S. in 1971. Their story is documented in the late Milo Thornberry’s book, Fireproof Moth: A Missionary in Taiwan's White Terror. Judith and her family were invited back to Taiwan in 2003 to be honored by the newly elected democratic government as “Foreigners Who Fought For Democracy in Taiwan”.  In 2016, Judith returned to Taiwan to be awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the Taiwan Theological College and Seminary for her human rights efforts.

From 1971 to 1985, Judith resided in New York City, where she met and married Jerry Griffin in 1981. During her time in New York, Judith was an active member of Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, raised 3 children and completed her doctoral thesis, which was an exploration of effective co-parenting for divorced families.

Judith moved to Granville, Ohio in 1985 to teach Sociology and Anthropology at Denison University. Always an unflinching feminist voice, one of her most popular and provocative classes at Denison was “Sexual Inequality”. She was an active member of United Church of Granville (formerly known as First Baptist Church of Granville), serving in multiple roles including several years as Moderator.

An advocate and activist for social justice, Judith was a longtime champion for women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. She loved and worked with the non-profit organization, Women Have Options, which she helped to found in 1992.

In 1991, her gift for conflict resolution led Judith into a second career in mediation, a developing field that was little-used in Licking County at the time. She founded Creative Resolutions, LLC and spent several years pioneering and advocating for the use of mediation in a variety of settings. She was part of a team that developed a nationwide system of conflict resolution for US Postal Workers that sharply decreased incidences of workplace violence. Judith built upon her doctoral work in family systems and cooperative parenting to carve out a specialty in mediation work with divorced parents and their children. It was her passion for this work that energized her until her retirement in 2017.

A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, June 9th at 2 P.M. at United Church of Granville, 115 W. Broadway, Granville. The service will be followed by food and fellowship to celebrate Judith’s life, exchanging stories, photos and memories.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to support the Philander Chase Conservancy, the land trust that established the Kokosing Nature Preserve, where Judith will be laid to rest. Please earmark these donations in the Memory of Judith Thomas.  


Donations may be made to:

Philander Chase Conservancy, Kenyon College Woollam House
306 Gaskin Ave., Gambier OH 43022


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