Where are they now?
Mother and son COSAM alumni continue to excel
Jane Upshaw and her son, Mark Thomas, call to mind whether excellence can be a hereditary trait as both of them excel in every aspect of their careers. In recognition of their various achievements, they have been publicly recognized by Auburn University; Upshaw was named COSAM’s 2008 Distinguished Alumna, and the Auburn Alumni Association presented Thomas with a 2011 Young Alumni Achievement Award.
Upshaw, who is the chancellor of the University of South Carolina Beaufort, is the first woman to lead a senior campus of the University of South Carolina, and under her guidance, USCB became a four- year-degree-granting institution. A native of Fairfax, Ala., Upshaw holds both undergraduate and master’s degrees in mathematics from Auburn, and she earned her doctorate in mathematics education from the University of South Carolina.
Since gaining recognition in 2008 as one of COSAM’s most distinguished alumni, Upshaw has continued her efforts to strengthen the university where she has already made history. In the last five years, USCB has added five new degree programs and a concentration in coastal ecology and conservation. The university also developed a studio art degree taught in newly renovated facilities on the Historic Beaufort Campus, as well as a new center for the arts, designed to bring performing arts programming to the area.
Other recent accomplishments include the construction of a campus center on the Hilton Head Gateway Campus, which includes a fitness center, food service, a bookstore, and campus life facilities, and three new on-campus apartment buildings. Additionally, the athletics programs at USCB are thriving. Women’s softball and soccer teams were recently formed, and in 2012, the baseball team went to the NAIA World Series, and the softball team won the conference title in regular season as well as the conference tournament.
In 2013, USCB was selected as the Organization of the Year by the Hilton Head Island – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce for the institution’s service to the area. Through various volunteer-based campus initiatives, such as the student athlete Champions of Character program and the Sand Sharks for Service student organization, USCB students have donated more than 16,000 hours of volunteer time to the area.
Finally, Upshaw was recently awarded the Beaufort Rotary Cup for service for leading USCB to become a baccalaureate institution. She is the 50th recipient since the award began in 1936.
Upshaw continues service in the community on the Coastal Carolina Hospital Board, the Hilton Head Island Bluffton Chamber Board, and the Lowcountry Economic Alliance Board, where she serves as vice chair. In her spare time, Upshaw and her husband, Tom, enjoy spending time with family and retreating to their house in the mountains of Brevard, N.C.
Mark Thomas holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master’s in applied mathematics from Auburn, and he is noted for being the youngest employee to be named vice president at Radiance Technologies where he worked from 2001 to 2008. He was vice president of Gulf Coast Operations and, during his time with the company, he helped it grow from 20 employees to almost 300. With the mathematical skills he learned at Auburn, Thomas increased the company’s revenue by millions, won $30 million in new business, and managed a team responsible for international support of corporate products deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008, Thomas joined Security and Environmental Solutions, Integration Innovation, Inc., as senior vice president where he helped lead the company from startup to more than $15 million in revenue in less than three years. When Thomas received the Young Alumni Achievement Award in 2011, he was a managing partner of a consulting firm called Key Business Technologies, a group specializing in consulting work in several areas including government contracting, project management, social media, and business strategies.
In the two years since he received the award, Thomas has continued to excel, and he currently works at CareCore National, the nation’s leading provider of evidence-based specialty healthcare benefits management. The organization strives to manage the quality and use of outpatient diagnostic and cardiac imaging, cardiac implantable devices, oncology drugs and therapeutic agents, radiation therapy, and sleep, pain, and lab services, with a goal of ensuring every treatment and test is medically necessary and absolutely appropriate for the individual patient. From November 2011 to June 2012, Thomas was the director of the Innovation and Advanced Technology Center. Recently, he was named the vice president of Strategic Development for CareCore National, and, as such, he supports the chief technology officer in developing: strategic technology objectives; plans for new market development and penetration; the research and development budget; and the resources necessary to meet all strategic objectives. Thomas is also responsible for leading new technology initiatives; developing and managing the innovation life cycle, including the strategic software development life cycle; managing cross functional, internal, and external research-and-development project teams; and overseeing the strategic technology handoff.
“What my degrees from COSAM have done for me is teach me to be a problem solver and an analytical thinker,” Thomas said. “I wouldn't be who I am today without Auburn and without COSAM.”
Ever mindful of his Auburn roots, Thomas serves the university as a member of the Auburn Alumni Board, a position previously held by his mother, as a member of the George Petrie Society, and has contributed to the Dr. Jack Brown Endowed Faculty Award.