local women feel for the pioneering women's center, which will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2014. Noting that some clients have come back repeatedly at transition points in their lives--for counseling on returning to school, or for advice on dealing with perceived sexism in the workplace--Thomas says the center serves a "lifelong constituency."
CEW was one of the first university-affiliated women's centers in the country when it opened its doors in 1964. Thomas, forty-nine, is just the third permanent director. She worked there while earning her PhD in higher education at the U-M, and her predecessor and former boss, Carol Hollenshead, was delighted when Thomas returned from Washington, D.C., to take the top job. "Being director of the center is not simply a nine-to-five job," says Hollenshead. "One has to have passion about the mission. And Gloria has that passion."
Thomas meets me at the tiny Plum Market cafe; a natural multi-tasker, she wraps up some family business during the interview--making arrangements, via text, to pick up her ten-year-old son, Sundiata, a fifth-grader at Wines, to appear in a play organized by his French tutor. She has to text him again when she learns the casual production is canceled. "He's disappointed," she sighs. Her daughter, Saidah, thirteen, will start at Skyline in the fall (Thomas and her ex-husband have an amicable co-parenting arrangement).