There are many passionate professors on our campus, but Thomas McGovern separates himself from the field with his love for teaching, his photographic skills, and his appreciation for art, in any form.
Thomas is originally from New York, where he found his love for artistic photography. In 1986, Thomas learned of some former friends who had passed away from AIDS, which at the time was a huge epidemic.
“There was a lot of stigma about having AIDS,” said McGovern. “Many doctors wouldn’t even treat you, it was really a crazy time.”
In response to this Thomas, started a 10-year project to raise awareness on the disease. In his decade long project, Thomas became known as
a an insider for the AIDS crisis and was able to get published by numerous publications such as the New York Times and had his pictures shown at The Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of the City of New York.
In 1997, McGovern made the cross-country trip to California where he attended Cal State Fullerton and received his master of fine arts degree, the highest degree in arts. After his completion of the program at Fullerton, McGovern moved to San Bernardino and fell in love with the environment.
Thomas has worked on a few projects in the Inland Empire such as “People in Cars” which showcased people who participated in the Route 66 Car Show. He is currently working on a project named “Swap Meet: This is San Bernardino” where he photographs the hidden gems that are sold in swap meets.
In 2011, Thomas founded Dotphotozine, an annual magazine that showcased the best photography material from students and alumni from CSUSB. He loves to use this magazine as a way to get national exposure to his students and to give them an idea of what seeing their work in a magazine can feel like.
“I find people in all their flaws to be really interesting and beautiful,” said McGovern “… I am a optimistic person, so I do see positive things in whatever I’m taking pictures of.”
This optimism and happy-go-lucky attitude is what has separated Thomas from his peers and made him an excellent professor for the university. This mindset helped Thomas as he dealt with the death of his wife in 2016 and despite this tragedy in his life, he was able to see the positive and be thankful for his blessings.
“You have these tragedies befall you, everybody does,” said McGovern. “That’s part of what makes life interesting and beautiful. If everything was perfect and you lived forever, we still wouldn’t appreciate it.”
Today, Thomas is the chair of the World Languages and Literatures department. At the age of 60, Thomas is looking at retirement but is in no rush as he has a love and passion for his current work and is enjoying the ride.
“If you asked me what I’m going to do next year at this time, I couldn’t give you an answer,” McGovern said. “And if you asked me five years from now… god, I have no idea.”