Jim Thomas

2017 Award Recipient


Jim Thomas '74 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and his time at Florida Tech had him involved in many student activities. His experiences here, including his technology-based curriculum, presidency of the Student Government Association, and leadership development in his fraternity bolstered an entrepreneurial spirit he describes as “embedded in Panther DNA.” With a keen eye for the next big thing, Jim led a host of fledgling companies across the globe, serving as chief operations officer, chief financial officer, and division president. He steered early-growth companies into successful business operations with value-based cultures. His vision as a business executive helped lead MapQuest through its initial public offering.

In 1996, as a pioneer in the software-as-a-service business model, Jim’s vision and belief in the growth of applications of new technology led him to a field with fascinating potential. Jim, pictured standing in the energy storage R&D lab, is currently the vice president of corporate development at Rivian Automotive. Rivian is a technology company advancing the shift to electric, autonomous, and shared mobility with its electric vehicles incorporating a cloud-based digital architecture, self-driving platform, and advanced battery system in all-electric adventure vehicles. Jim is also a member of the board of directors for Modus Operandi, a high-tech software company providing information-based intelligence solutions, and a founding board member of the Illinois Autonomous Vehicle Association.

“Identifying the next big thing means being alert to the early shifting of mores and being ready to accept change, even if it means letting go of something you have shaped and molded. Managing change may require challenging, embracing or creating new technologies and/or business models that have traditionally been successful and persuading those who think these things will never become obsolete to accept that change,” he said.


Florida Tech - B.S. in Mathematics '74