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The Renaissance Man

December 6, 2023
Hollis Thomas is known in his circle of family and friends as “The Renaissance Man.” Why? Because he believes in the idea of continuous evolution. In other words, never stop learning, improving your fitness and growing. He didn’t just recently adopt this mindset, but he has lived it since he graduated in1969 from Hammond Technical High School in Hammond, Indiana. From there, his career went from working in the steel industry to the Air Force, where he served as a fireman, to college studies at Indiana State where he earned degrees in Criminology and Counseling. In 2010 he became a certified Chef while working full-time, taking five-hour classes at night. In May of 2023, he completed the Visual Communications program with an emphasis in Photography. After serving 26 years as a Perry Township School Counselor and a total of 40-plus years in education, he decided to retire in 2014. Strong-armed by his youngest daughter Alexis (a former board member of the Avondale Meadows YMCA), he and his wife Catherine joined the Jordan YMCA. The no-join fee promotion served as the additional incentive the Renaissance Man needed to begin his next development project. Before joining the Y, Hollis was active. He once completed a full 26.2 marathon, followed six months later with the Mini in Indianapolis. But, his workouts were hit or miss and mostly included yard work and an occasional spin around the block on his bicycle. However, he wanted and needed more consistency. When he joined the Y, his average workout routine included weight lifting, some cardio and swimming. His long-term goal was to build his fitness stamina and increase his life expectancy. He didn’t want his family’s health history to be his story. The Renaissance Man loved the new man he saw in the mirror. He lost weight and even dropped down a few pant sizes. However, after a bout with arthritis and hip pain, his doctor encouraged him to slow down. Slowing down was not in his vocabulary. As he puts it, “The word quit was never an option for me.” He simply needed to adjust his plans. Catherine had been trying to get him to join her aquatics class, but Hollis bristled at the idea of splashing around in the water with a bunch of ladies. He thought said activities wouldn’t challenge the more strenuous workout plan he had previously developed.
Against his better judgment, Hollis acquiesced to Catherine’s suggestion and decided to try out the aquatics class. Before long, he was hooked! The class not only met his fitness objectives, but it brought him into contact with some of the most amazing people, who later became friends and are now like family. Another unplanned benefit is that he and Catherine can do something else together to build on their connection as a couple. Hollis says, “Joining the Y is the best thing you can do for yourself. It’s not just the aquatics classes. The Lunch & Learns are awesome! They provide valuable information on elder care, resources for all things medical, downsizing tips and thoughts on ways to stay vibrant.” Having raised funds for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, volunteering is a core value. To him, the Y is a pillar in the community for health and wellness. It’s a resource for everyone and he believes in the spirit of giving back and passing the baton of service to others. He says, “The end game is to be an example for others. It’s never too late to work on your fitness. You may be battling depression or need a little support from a group. I’ve seen people here who have found happiness, new hobbies and single members have even found new spouses.”

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The Renaissance Man

Hollis Thomas is known in his circle of family and friends as “The Renaissance Man.” Why? Because he believes in the idea of continuous evolution. In other...

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YMCA of Greater Indianapolis