Sarah Thomas, first female NFL official, to headline Women’s Philanthropy Board event

Published: October 14, 2019
Updated: October 21, 2019
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Tickets are available for the 2019 Women’s Philanthropy Board Fall Colloquium and Luncheon, featuring NFL official Sarah Thomas and Auburn University Equestrian coach Greg Williams, on Friday, Nov. 15, at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. 

Thomas made NFL history on April 8, 2015, when she was one of nine new game officials added to the NFL officiating roster for the upcoming season. The first full-time female official made history again on Sept. 13 when she was part of the officiating crew for the NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. Her hat, whistle and flag from that game are on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A Pascagoula, Mississippi-native, Thomas’ football officiating career began in 1996, working games from pee-wee to high school. When she was hired by Conference USA in 2007, Thomas became the first woman to officiate for the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. The exposure put her on the radar of NFL officials.

As Thomas completed her fourth NFL season on Ron Torbert’s officiating crew, she made history one more time. When the crew was picked to work the AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots in January, Thomas became the first woman to officiate a postseason game.

Thomas attended the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship, where she was an academic All-American. She graduated with a degree in arts and communications. She and her husband Brian have three children, Bridley, Brady and Bailey.

The morning colloquium will feature Williams, who is no stranger to history-making feats.

His 2018-19 squad capped its undefeated season—the first Auburn equestrian team in the history of the sport to do so—with Auburn’s sixth NCEA national title and second SEC championship.

Williams was subsequently named the NCEA and SEC Coach of the Year for the first time in his 25-year career.

A 1986 Auburn alumnus, Williams inspires his student-athletes to also excel in the classroom. Equestrian teams have accumulated 82 All-SEC and Freshman All-SEC honors, as well as 69 NCEA Scholastic All-Americans.

The Paragould, Arkansas, native began showing horses and competing in rodeos as a youngster. His professional career involved training pleasure horses, as well as cutting, haltering and roping horses. Williams continued showing horses for a few years after returning to Auburn, where he ran the Horse Teaching and Researching Unit.

Williams and his wife, Sandi, have two daughters and one grandchild.

Individual, open-seating reservations for the luncheon are $65 and a platinum pair of reservations is available for $240. Reserved sponsorship tables of 10 seats are available in the following price structure: Gold Table, $800; Platinum Table, $1,200; and Diamond Table, $1,500. Reservations and sponsorships may be purchased by visiting

The Women’s Philanthropy Board, or WPB, is the flagship division of the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, an academic center in Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences. In addition to hosting educational outreach programs, WPB sponsors mentoring initiatives for Auburn students and practices collective philanthropy by supporting scholarships and philanthropic impact grants. Since its establishment in 2002, WPB has provided more than $770,000 to support student scholarships, faculty and programs in the College of Human Sciences. WPB is funded through the generous support of more than 200 individuals and corporate and business partners. WPB’s 2019-20 educational programs are sponsored by Alabama Power.

For more information about the Women’s Philanthropy Board or the 2019 Fall Colloquium and Luncheon, call 334-844-3524 or email

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.