March 17, 2017 12:00 am

As a member of the military working full time while raising a family, George Thomas did not have a lot of free time to pursue his education back in 1979. Based at Fort Lewis, he knew that earning a college degree was a goal he needed to achieve to advance in his career.

He began researching colleges that had a presence on Fort Lewis’ education center, with the goal to find an affordable college with flexible schedules, small class sizes and dedicated professors.

Pierce College (then called Fort Steilacoom Community College) stood out to Thomas because it was local and catered to the needs of the military community. “The professors were accessible, and we had access to any of the resources available to students on the main campuses,” he said.

As the first in his family to attend college, it was important to Thomas that he performed well in his classes. “I truly believe that the foundation for success is built in the first two years of college,” he said. “Many of the universities on base had larger classes. But Pierce College offered me the flexibility to take evening classes that were conducive to my schedule, and helped to set the groundwork for me to transfer and earn my four-year degree.”

Thanks to his experience at Pierce College, Thomas felt more than prepared to transfer and pursue his bachelor’s degree. “My experience at Pierce College was instrumental in helping me formulate my worldview,” he said. “The classes were challenging and it was a very rewarding experience.”

Thomas earned his associate degree in 1981, and transferred to Saint Martin’s University, which also maintained a presence on the military base. Upon graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he pursued educational opportunities within the military. He held a number of positions in the military, spending time in Germany, Korea and various locations throughout the United States.

Thomas retired from the military in 1999, and accepted a position with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Today, he serves as the director of transportation audits with the GSA. In this role, he helps promote efficiency and transparency within the government. The department audits all transportation-related invoices to ensure the government received the services it paid for without being overcharged. Each year, the department saves taxpayers between $13 and $16 million worth of overcharges.

Thomas believes his time at Pierce led him to where he is today. “The foundation I received at Pierce College set me up for success in life,” he said. “From a professional standpoint, it shaped me into the person I am today, and I firmly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without Pierce College.”