Skip to main content

L. Eugene Thomas Papers

Identifier: 1998-0309

Scope and Content

Most of Dr. Thomas' research is concerned with the idea of “successful” aging. The interview transcripts included with this collection are part of an extended project involving the comparison of developmental maturity in elderly persons across differing cultural contexts. To quote from a letter that Dr. Thomas wrote in 1983, “I am interested in exploring why some people age gracefully, while others become fearful and bitter.” Dr. Thomas made at least two extended trips to India - one in 1983 and the other in 1989-90. During each of these two sabbaticals Dr. Thomas also made a stay in England on his return from India and collected additional interview samples there. Thus, chronologically, the segment of the collection titled “Indian Interviews I” comes just before “English Interviews I” though the two projects are conceptually inter-related. The first collection of Indian interviews focuses on elderly householders in Varanasi, India (near New Delhi). The subjects are mostly male, and all speak English. Most are somewhat affluent, but there is some diversity in professions and economic status. The first segment of English interviews is likewise focused on elderly men. Not all of these transcripts are complete - many folders only contain answers to certain key questions. Note that Dr. Thomas was able to contact several of the English subjects for follow-up interviews in 1990, though these later interviews are not otherwise related to the main series of 1990 interviews.

In 1989 Dr. Thomas undertook a new series of Indian interviews, this time focusing more specifically on religious “renouncers”, or individuals who had renounced their families in later years in order to prepare themselves for death. All of the interviews were conducted in or near a religious commune or ashram in Varanasi, India. Many of the subjects are swamis, specifically chosen as part of Dr. Thomas' efforts to study 'spiritually advanced practitioners.' These interviews are more open-ended than the earlier series, and some are quite extensive. The related series, identified as “English Interviews II” in this collection, dates from 1990 and concerns a closely knit group of elderly church-goers in Birmingham, England. One of the subjects is an Anglican bishop. As in all of these interviews, the scientific method involves a phenomenological approach analysis metaphor and thematic content in the interview transcripts. The psychological theories are derived in large part from the work of Erikson. The collection contains sporadic manuscript notes by Dr. Thomas illustrating his phenomenological method for selected subjects.


  • undated, 1979-1990


The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from both the University of Connecticut Libraries and the owner(s) of the copyright.


L. Eugene Thomas was born in Magnolia, Arkansas on 27 December 1932, and received his B.A. degree from Louisiana State University in 1955. He continued his education with a Masters in Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, a Masters in 1966 from the University of Chicago and two years later his doctorate, also from the University of Chicago.L. Eugene Thomas was a professor in the Department of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut for many years having been appointed in 1968 and becoming a full professor in 1982. Thomas received numerous awards and fellowships including American Institute of Indian Studies, Senior Research Fellowship (India, 1983) and Senior Fulbright Research Fellowship (India, 1989-1990; Turkey, 1996-1997)

Much of his research was focused on the psychology of personality, specifically as it applies to human aging. Some of Prof. Thomas' later research focused more specifically on the relationship between psychological maturity and spiritual transcendence in subjects he described as 'spiritually advanced.' Prof. Thomas utilized research methods derived from qualitative rather than quantitative analysis. Thus, rather than performing statistical studies on large populations, Prof. Thomas performed close linguistic analysis of transcripts from carefully selected interview subjects.

Dr. Thomas died in 1998.


2.6 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



L. Eugene Thomas was a professor in the Department of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut for many years. Much of his research was focused on the psychology of personality, specifically as it applies to human aging.


Collection consists of a single series, divided into four main groupings. “Indian Interviews I” and “English Interviews I” both date from 1983, though some of the related correspondence and several follow-up interviews fall outside this one year. The transcripts in “Indian Interviews II” were gathered in 1989-90, while the transcripts in “English Interviews II” were gathered in 1990.

Acquisition Information

Collection donated to Archives & Special Collections by the widow of L. Eugene Thomas in 1998.

L. Eugene Thomas Papers
Archives & Special Collections staff
1998 July
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US