A big voice is stilled
Byron Thomas had a big, booming basso voice and a personality to match it. When he died last Friday (June 30) of cancer at the age of 62, Chico lost not only one of its giants of music, but also an unforgettable figure.

Besides teaching singing at Butte College for 30 years, Thomas at various times led numerous church choirs, the Bidwell Generals barbershop quartet, the Paradise Symphony Orchestra and a men’s community choir in Chico. He also performed in many musicals and operas. For the past 19 years he’d led the choir of Chico’s Spiritual Enrichment Center, where he was both member and showman extraordinaire.

Thomas loved a good party, and in typical fashion he’d planned the celebration of his life to take place before he died, so he could be there too. Unfortunately, he left too soon, but the celebration will take place as, if not when, he planned at the SEC on July 14, beginning at 6 p.m.

City hires new tree keeper
Denice F. Britton (pictured), a former Butte College student who went on to UC Berkeley to obtain a master’s degree in urban forestry, is the city of Chico’s new tree keeper, replacing Chris Boza, who retired after 16 years.

“Trees are the life blood of Chico,” Britton said. “I look forward to helping the community develop an urban forestry program that focuses on the management of existing trees and the planting of new trees.’

She has a big job: The city has more than 27,000 street trees as well those in Bidwell Park to take care of. According to a city press release, she’s got the chops to do it. Besides her academic training, she was general manager of Britton Tree Services, in the Napa Valley, where she helped develop an extensive training and safety program for the tree crews. She’s also helped develop a certification program for arborists, as well as had a hand in establishing pruning and other agricultural standards.

“It feels like I’m coming full circle—back to Butte County and Chico, and back to urban forestry,” she said.

Two new deans
Chico State University has a new dean of undergraduate education. He’s William Loker, and since he’s been interim dean for the past year, he’s replacing himself, you might say. An anthropology professor at Chico State since 1996, he’s taught at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Mississippi State University. He chaired the Department of Anthropology in 2003-04 and served as interim associate dean for the School of Graduate, International and Interdisciplinary Studies in 2004-05. An expert on development and natural resources management, Loker received a Fulbright award in 1998 to study land use in Honduras and two Rockefeller grants in 1989 to study sustainable agriculture.

In other university news, the former dean of the School of Graduate, International and Sponsored Programs, Robert Jackson, has been appointed interim dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, filling in until a permanent replacement for the outgoing interim dean, Byron Jackson, can be hired. Byron Jackson retired this spring. Both Jacksons were longtime professors in the Department of Political Science, Bob Jackson since 1970. “It is a real honor to be able to serve BSS after being a member of the faculty for 36 years,” he said in a press release.