They called him “Red Lightning” in college.
Red for short.
Back home, in State College, Pennsylvania, they called him Sky Thomas.
See, Matthew Robert Thomas was the kind of man who demanded a nickname.
The shock of bright red hair and sheer size contrasted his rather ordinary full name.
His college nickname, “Red Lightning,” was bestowed during his first year at Miami University. A friend and college football fanatic thought Matt resembled Florida State’s ball boy — another chubby redhead who knew how to captivate an audience.
And while many of Matt’s fraternity brothers at Alpha Sigma Phi (Alpha Sig) didn’t even know his full name, they knew Red as the life of every party.
One Halloween he dressed up as Zach Galifianakis’ character from “The Hangover,” baby carrier and all.
He greeted his Miami friends with a “Happy hump day!” every Wednesday, every week, without fail. The phrase was captioned with a picture of Matt reclining in an armchair, and his fraternity brothers often shared the photo on social media midweek.
He loved network TV on CBS.
“He actually watched shows like CSI and The Good Doctor,” his friend and senior Harrison Bergman said with a laugh.
Matt was a leader in Alpha Sig and the vice president of the Investment Banking Club. Throughout his time at Miami, he excelled in case competitions for the club.
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But, surprisingly, the self-proclaimed “freak in the spreadsheets,” who spent his free time programming data and poring over stock options across the two monitors in his bedroom, Matt had an affinity for art history. He took one class sophomore year and got hooked.
His favorite painting, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog — showcasing a captain from the 19th century staring out across the sea — baffled his friends.
“Banks like people who are well rounded,” Matt offered to his friends as way of explanation.
Matt graduated from Miami last May with a degree in finance from the Farmer School of Business and moved to Chicago to work as a financial analyst for Parking Advisors, Inc. where he honed his financial prowess and made coworkers laugh at the real estate firm.
But in between the hijinks, explosive laughter and jokes, Matt’s biggest fear was failure.
He was driven. He admired his finance professors at Miami and was always interested in how power structures worked, wanting to learn how people succeed.
Matt loved his friends and family deeply.
Originally from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, Matt was Robert and Alice Thomas’ first-born son — followed by two brothers, Jason and John, and two sisters, Jennifer and Audrey.
“He had a big heart,” Bergman said.
Matt died last week, on Monday, Sept. 16, just 12 days after his 23rd birthday.
Donations can be made in Matt’s memory to the Miami University Foundation, 725 E. Chestnut St, Oxford, OH 45056 (place "In memory of Matthew Thomas" in the memo section of the check.) Donations can also be made online at GivetoMiamiOH.org/give (in the comments field include "In memory of Matthew Thomas.")