Elaine Thomas (1950-2019) was born in Accrington to Mary and Edward Dean. She had a younger sister, Annette. She attended Accrington Girls’ Grammar School and then Manchester College of Art. She was married briefly to a fellow student, Mark Thomas, in 1971. In 1973, Elaine became a fine art lecturer at Ulster Polytechnic in Belfast, where she remained for 23 years, eventually becoming Dean of Art and Design. In 1996, she became Dean of Cultural Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. From 2000, Elaine was director of the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, overseeing its transformation into the University for the Creative Arts. Professor Thomas retired as vice-chancellor in 2011, the year she was appointed CBE for her outstanding contribution to the creative arts in Higher Education. She was chair of the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design.