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Death of professor shocks, saddens Rice community

By Christine Jeon     2/1/12 6:00pm

Patrick Thornton, adjunct professor in the Department of Sport Management died on Jan. 15 after being diagnosed last November with cancer in his spine. He was 53.

This semester, Thornton was scheduled to teach Sport Finance, a class that examines the financial principles and economic theory significant to the sport market.

Baker College sophomore Evan Stackpole said Thornton was not present the first day of class, and instead, the sport management professors said they would be splitting the responsibilities for the class until Thornton came back.



"To me, it seemed as though for something like that to be said, Professor Thornton was not doing well," Stackpole said. "They didn't provide us with much details."

A week later, on Jan. 16, sport management students received an email titled "Dr. Thornton." The message read, "Today, Rice University and the Sport Management Program said, ‘Goodbye' to Professor Patrick Thornton [...]"

"It was shocking because he was a really nice person and a great professor," Stackpole said. "It took me a while to realize he was gone."

Thornton had been teaching at Rice since 2005. He was also an adjunct professor at the South Texas College of Law and University of Houston and a faculty member at Houston Baptist University.

Thornton is survived by his wife Alison and his two sons, Sam, age 9 and George, age six. He was a native Houstonian, attended Lamar High School and Southwest Texas State University, and received a master's degree from Rice, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Thornton contributed several textbooks to the sports management program. He published two books, Sports Law and Sports Ethics, with his third book, Baseball and the Law, scheduled to be published very soon.

Sport Management Lecturer Jason Sosa said it would have been a shame to cancel the Sport Finance class since Thornton had been dedicated to continuing it – making the syllabus and posting reading materials and articles – all while receiving treatment.

"We didn't think it would be fair to Pat," Sosa said.

Sosa said Thornton served as a great mentor.

"When I decided to look at law schools, he and I talked and discussed advantages and disadvantages," Sosa said. "Every week during my first year, he would check on me, and he invested a lot of his personal time to make sure I did well my first year in law school."

Sosa agreed to report his grades to Thornton at the end of his first semester and was able to share his grades with his mentor before his passing.

"I was at peace letting my mentor know that I'm still doing good," Sosa said.



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