John C. Thorns Jr.


John C. Thorns, Jr., age 88, of Hays, passed away Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at Hays Medical Center. He was born April 14, 1926 in Denver, Colorado to John C. and Margaret B. (Hallauer) Thorns. He married Catherine Gallagher on August 9, 1952. She preceded him in death in December of 1958. 

John was a retired professor of art at Fort Hays State University where he had taught since 1954 and chairman of the art department since 1973. He studied at FHSU, Indiana University and the University of Iowa, where he received an MFA in architectural design. He served as national president of Delta Pi Delta honorary art fraternity was named Outstanding Educator of America in 1975 and is listed in Who’s Who of American Art. 

The cultural climate of western Kansas has been enriched by Thorns’ involvement. He was a founder and president of the Hays Arts Council and has served on the Kansas Arts Commission’s visual arts advisory panel. He coordinated the exhibitions scheduled at FHSU and was art consultant to Hadley regional Medical Center and Farmers State Bank in Hays. He also served as advisor to the Dane G. Hansen Foundation Museum in Logan. He developed the MFA program at Fort Hays State University and curated the Kansas national Exhibition of Small Paintings each year. He was architectural designer for the First Presbyterian Church in Hays, the Art Department in Rarick Hall and the Campanile at FHSU. In 1987 the FHSU art gallery was named the Moss-Thorns Gallery of Art in honor of Thorns and Dr. Moss, his predecessor as chairman. The Art Exhibition Association honored him with the “Art Enhancer Award” in 1988. Thorns retired in 1990. 

In his paintings, Thorns suggests rather than depicts nature by using graceful areas of color within moving forms. His works appear to be representations of vast, lonely, imaginary terrains, contrasted with the reality of plant life or underwater forms incorporated into the works by combining collage and acrylic. 

John was a longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church and was part of the Founding board of the Center for Life Experiences at the church. 

He is survived by a daughter, Karen Thorns; a sister, Margaret Schmidt; a brother, James Thorns; a niece, Margaret Anne Becker and husband Vernon all of Hays; nephews, John Alan Lawver and wife Brenda of Bonita Springs, Florida, David Lawver and fiancé Tracy Mots of Kansas City, Kansas and Steve Lawver of Carl Junction, Missouri. 

He was preceded in death by his parents and a daughter, Jennifer Ruth Thorns. 

Funeral services will be 4:00 PM Sunday, July 20, 2014 at the First Presbyterian Church 2900 Hall, Hays, KS. 

Visitation will be Saturday 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM at the church. 

Private family burial will be on Monday in the Sylvan Grove Cemetery. 

Arrangements in care of Brock’s-Keithley Funeral Chapel of Hays. 

In lieu of flowers memorials are suggested to FHSU Foundation/Art Museum, First Presbyterian Church of Hays or Hays Medical Center Foundation/Art. Condolences may be sent to the family by guest book at or emailed to