325 East Douglas Avenue
Wichita, Kansas 67202
Tel: 316.712.4950

Remembering Thomas Stanley


The Kansas Leadership Center mourns the untimely passing of a core member of the KLC team. Thomas Stanley, director of business initiatives, long-time staff member and champion of the Kansas Leadership Center, died in a tragic accident on Saturday, September 28, 2019. He was struck and killed by a bolt of lightning while finishing a 50K ultra-marathon race at Elk City State Park in southeast Kansas. Thomas was 33 years old. He is survived by his wife, Ashley, and three young children.

From the early days of KLC, Thomas has been a consistent presence,” said Ed O’Malley, president and CEO. “He has shaped the Kansas Leadership Center as much as anyone. He leaves a huge hole in our organization. Personally, I am devastated. My relationship with Thomas was so special it is hard to put into words. I love him and his family deeply. We shared much with each other, about our families, our faith and our desire to live a life purpose. We’ve all lost a great friend and companion on the journey.”

“Thomas Stanley was a phenomenal young man,” concurred David Lindstrom, chair of KLC’s Board of Directors. “He was an amazing contributor to the success of the Kansas Leadership Center.  But this isn’t just a loss of someone who worked for the company; he was a beloved member of our family, and a devoted family man himself. I vividly remember having conversations with him about stay-at-home vacations, pitching a tent in the back yard to play with his kids. He epitomized everything that a mother would want for her daughter’s husband, and everything a wife could wish for from the father of their children. My heart breaks for his family. We are all deeply saddened by his loss.”

Thomas’ affiliation to KLC dates back to the early days of the organization. He first earned the notice of Ed O’Malley in an undergraduate leadership course Ed was teaching with Peter Cohen at Wichita State University. Upon graduation from WSU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2008, Shaun Rojas (now director of civic engagement) hired Stanley as an intern. In the years that followed, Thomas held roles of increasing importance, until arriving at his most recent position, director of business initiatives and a member of the senior management team.

Stanley spearheaded numerous initiatives at KLC. Along with Rojas, he invented the Leadership Transformation Grant process, which has spread leadership development training to hundreds of civically oriented organizations in the education, non-profit, faith, business and government sectors across the state. He was intimately involved with KLC’s online learning platform,, and recently launched KLC’s online store. Thomas felt a special passion for engaging diverse faith communities in Kansas with leadership training; he even received an award for outstanding service from the Islamic Society of Wichita in 2015.

Thomas’s work at KLC was more than just a job; he was full of love for co-workers and passion for the organization’s mission to foster civic leadership for the greater good of Kansans everywhere. To everyone who knew him, this feeling of love and sense of purpose was palpable in every conversation and in every meeting with him. Even at age 33, he had already built a vast personal network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances all over the state.

But there was more to Thomas than the Kansas Leadership Center. A gifted athlete and superior long-distance runner, he ran ultra-marathons, including several 100-mile races, and had taken on youth soccer coaching. Thomas read widely, voraciously, and continuously, with a special interest in theology. A man of deep Christian faith, he was especially looking forward to a work trip/pilgrimage to Israel in December to work with Masa Leadership Center, a kindred leadership development organization in Jerusalem.

Given his passion for his work at KLC, it is no surprise that Thomas took an active role in civic life. He served as vice-chair of the Nonprofit Chamber of Service Board of Directors and as a board member of Run Wichita, the city’s running club. He was a former board member of W-A Community of Young Professionals and was an important member of O’Malley’s gubernatorial campaign team in 2017.

Finally, Thomas had a playfully mischievous side to his personality; he was a merry prankster, as many can attest. Some of the more notorious jests at KLC included mixing the company candy bowl with Skittles and M&Ms, confusing the palettes and incurring the ire of vexed colleagues. In another incident, when Thomas chose himself as Secret Santa in a holiday drawing, he played the game but kept his secret, leaving hilarious gifts on his desk that he’d purchased for himself and complaining to staff about the horrible presents he was receiving from “my Secret Santa.”

Above all, Thomas was a man of faith and family. He was deeply devoted to his wife, Ashley, children Charlotte, Peter and Claire, and his spiritual journey. He leaves behind hundreds if not thousands of people who were touched by Thomas’ gentle heart and loving care.

A Celebration of Life for Thomas Stanley

Friday, October 4, 2019 |1:00 PM
Christ Church
14242 E 21st St N, Wichita, KS 67230

Watch the recording of the service here.

Support the Stanley family right now

A GoFundMe campaign has been created to support the family in their time of immediate need. 

Support the future of the Stanley children

The Stanley Children’s fund has been established to provide for the long-term future for Charlotte, Peter and Claire. Send contributions to:

Stanley Children’s Fund
c/o Kansas Leadership Center
325 E. Douglas Ave.
Wichita, KS 67202

Share your Thomas story

Many people have a story about how Thomas touched their lives. We are collecting these stories to form a book for his family, something his three small children, and others, can keep and treasure for a lifetime. 

Read other stories about Thomas

Read more tributes to Thomas in the following news outlets:

ABC News: Runner killed while finishing 50K race in southeast Kansas
Associated Press: Runner killed by lightning near end of 50K race
BBC: Kansas runner killed by lightning near ultramarathon finish line
CNN: Father of three dies after being struck by lightning during a trail race
KAKE: Lightning strike kills Andover man in southeast Kansas
Kansas Public Radio: Runner Struck and Killed by Lightning While Finishing 50K Race in Southeast Kansas
KCTV5: Runner killed by lightning strike while finishing 50K race in southeast Kansas
KSN: Feet from the Finish Line: Andover man dies after being struck by lightning
KSN: Race director, chief meteorologist talk lightning safety after Andover man’s death
KSN: Running jersey designed to honor life of runner struck by lightning
KWCH: Runner killed by lightning strike in Southeast Kansas
KWCH: Wife of Andover runner struck by lightning recalls receiving devastating call
KXLH: Runner struck, killed by lightning while nearing finish line of 50K race
New York Post: Kansas man fatally struck by lightning steps away from 50K finish line
Origo (Hungarian News)
People: Father of 3 Dies After Being Struck by Lightning During 50K Race: ‘My Heart Hurts,’ Says Wife
RT (Russian TV): Lightning tragedy: Runner dies after being struck near finish line of 50km endurance race
Runners World: 33-Year-Old Ultrarunner Dies by Lightning Strike During 50K Trail Race in Kansas
Runners World: Kansas Community Remembers Runner Struck, Killed by Lightning Strike
USA Today: Thomas family mourns dad killed by lightning near the finish line of 50-kilometer race
USA Today: Runner killed by lightning strike while finishing 50K race in Kansas
WBST: Runner about to cross finish line struck, killed by lightning
Wichita Business Journal: Kansas Leadership Center executive dies after lightning strike
Wichita Eagle: Struck by lightning, Wichita-area runner dies as he approached finish of 50K trail race
Wichita Eagle: Wichita cafe where runner killed by lightning was a customer is paying homage to him

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