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April 5, 2012
by Ryan Moulden
CSU is once again honoring faculty and staff who have reached service milestones during the 2011-2012 fiscal year at Celebrate! CSU Milestones. The all-university event to commemorate years of service and retirement will take place at 3 p.m. Thursday, May 3, in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom.
Billy Thornton, professor emeritus in the College of Business, is celebrating 30 years of service to Colorado State University. His impact at CSU and in the Fort Collins communities includes everything from theatrical performances to passionate advocacy for the Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado.
Thornton was born in Abilene, Texas, the son of a WWII veteran. He was the first in his family to attend college. Thornton began his college career at Texas Tech University, and ultimately received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Florida in 1963. Thornton went on to receive a master’s in systems engineering from the University of Arizona in 1966 and a doctorate in industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1972.
He began his teaching career in 1972 at Florida Atlantic University and taught at Oklahoma State University before joining CSU in 1981. After teaching thousands of students, performing a myriad of committee service, and publishing more than 50 books, professional articles, and papers, he retired in December 2006.
Thornton entered the U.S. Army in 1965, shortly after receiving his second degree from the University of Arizona. He spent one year in Vietnam as the executive officer of a firing battery.
During his time in the military, Thornton attended Artillery Basic School, as well as Airborne School. He received the Bronze Star Medal in 1967 and the Meritorious Service Medal in 1969. After promotion to captain and spending two years in the Pentagon, Thornton left the Army to pursue his doctorate degree.
Thornton is an advocate for those who serve our country and a passionate veteran. He is involved with the Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, in Spring Canyon Park in Fort Collins. The Plaza was created to commemorate, memorialize and thank our nation’s veterans.
Thornton’s academic and technical accomplishments are matched by an equally impressive resume of theatrical performances. He developed an appetite for theater when he was involved with productions in college. Since moving to Fort Collins in the early 1980s, Thornton has been highly involved in the Northern Colorado theater scene, acting in productions for the Bas Bleu Theater, Open Stage Theatre, the Fort Collins Children’s Theater, and many other venues, including CSU affiliated productions.
He vividly remembers how taxing performances could be. When playing the role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, Thornton poured much energy into each performance of a character marred by negativity and disappointment. Thornton explains that every performance felt as "taking years away" from his life due to the emotional toll. Each night, he would fall apart after coming off stage as the emotions of Willy Loman’s story overwhelmed him.
Thornton has acted in more than 30 productions in the Northern Colorado area. Some of his personal highlights include playing the lead in Pirates of Penzance and The Gin Game, as well as playing the leading role of Norman Thayer, Jr., in CSU Theatre’s production of On Golden Pond.
He feels that acting and teaching go hand-in-hand. “There is much that we teachers can learn from studying what an actor does in preparing for a performance,” Thornton said. “You gotta know your lines and your audience, for starters.”
Thornton wears many hats in his life: professor, veteran, and actor; however, one of the hats he is most proud to wear is that of husband, father, and grandfather. Thornton and his wife Ginny have two sons, two daughters, and eight grandchildren.
Thornton recently returned to work in the College of Business at CSU. Although he retired from teaching in 2006, he has continued with the College of Business as an information technology trainer and consultant, as well as a mentor and resource for faculty and staff. Thornton’s current position is “something to keep the grey matter going.”
Join the University community in honoring employees during Celebrate! CSU Milestones on May 3.
The event will honor Colorado State University employees who are celebrating retirement and those who have reached 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45 years of service to the University.
Contact: The Office of CSU Events
Phone: (970) 491-4601