Tribute to Elizabeth Thoman, Founder, Center for Media Literacy, In Memoriam

Elizabeth “Liz” Thoman, CHM, founded the Center for Media Literacy in 1989.  Her inspiration and vision continue to influence the Center’s work – and the work of media literacy advocates everywhere -- each and every day.  This website page is dedicated to honoring Liz and her contributions to media literacy education, featuring her writings, videos of her and recognizing her, and a host of materials generated in her memory, at the time of her death in December, 2016.  We are forever grateful to Liz.

Sr. Elizabeth Thoman 
June 1943 - December 2016

Thoman was born in June 18, 1943, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to John and Gertrude Thoman. She grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. She entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1964 and professed her final vows in 1966. She earned a bachelor's degree from Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa. The now-closed school was operated by her religious congregation.

She earned master's degrees from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications in Los Angeles and from the now-closed Immaculate Heart College, also in Los Angeles. 

She spent three decades advocating for media literacy education, starting with her initial work teaching high school English in Marshalltown, Iowa, from 1967 to 1969. There, she developed an interest in communication education. From 1970 to 1975, she worked as staff photographer for the Franciscan Communications Center, where she helped make short films designed to promote classroom discussion in religious education.

Thoman founded and led the National Sisters Communications Service in Los Angeles, which provided professional communication resources for communities of women religious nationwide. Through this work she met Norman Lear, a television producer who created "All in the Family," who sought her advice on a television show that would feature the changing roles of Catholic women religious.

In 1977, she founded Media & Values magazine, which examined war, gender stereotypes and racism in the media; media regulation; children and media; and more. As circulation reached 10,000, in 1989, she created the Center for Media Literacy for creating curriculum materials designed to help students of all ages develop critical thinking skills in response to violence in media and other issues.

Known as an articulate and passionate speaker, Thoman testified before Congress and was one of 50 media and educational leaders in the United States invited by President Bill Clinton to a White House summit on children's television in 1996. She was a keynote speaker on media issues for several conferences and received a number of awards and recognition for her leading role in media literacy education.  Read Remembrance here. 


Articles and Information 

The Elizabeth Thoman Media Literacy Collection is now available through the libraray at Temple University

Sr. Elizabeth Thoman altered the course of my life by Sr. Rose Pacatte, Pauline Center for Media Studies

Transcript from Memorial in Los Angeles 

Collected Thoughts and Commentary

Celebration of Life - Program, Announcement and Prayer 




Tributes from Memorial in Los Angeles: 
What is Media Literacy? Dedicated to Liz Thoman
Panel tribute at Northeast Media Literacy Conference: