First NFL female referee to kick off Featured Speakers


Sarah Thomas, the first female NFL referee will be speaking at Kent State Stark on Oct. 16.

Allyson Nichols

The NFL’s first female referee, Sarah Thomas, will kick off Kent Stark’s 28th annual Featured Speakers Series event.

Sarah Thomas grew up around sports her whole life, which led to her becoming an officiant for high school level football. This was her job for nearly ten years until  one game, a NFL scout attended a game she was officiating.

The scout watched Thomas’ work during the game which led him to connect her to a Division 1 supervisor, who helped her jump past junior college level and straight to Conference USA.

She officiated for Conference USA for eight seasons, before joining the NFL Officiating Department, where she trained to become a referee for the NFL.

Thomas changed the male-dominated game of football, when she was hired to become NFL’s first female referee in April 2015.

She debuted at a match-up game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans in Sept. 2015, which marked an important moment in sports history.

Since then, she has become an inspiration to many by embodying the notion that with a belief in yourself, an inner drive, hard work, preparation, and a good mindset, you can achieve your dreams of being the best that you can be.

Thomas will also provide the keys to overcoming adversity, finding your balance between work and life, decision-making and achieving breakthrough success for both genders.

Thomas will speak to students and the public on Oct. 17 beginning at 7:30 p.m. in Timken Great Hall of the Kent State Stark Conference Center. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m.

Programs for the Featured Speakers Series are free and open to the public. Tickets are required with a limit of two per person.

Tickets can be picked up at the Main Hall Information Desk. They will be available during regular business hours: Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Featured Speakers Series brings to the campus national and international experts in the civil rights, politics, education, environmental activism, literature and arts that shape our society.

For a list of the 2018-19 series speakers, visit the Featured Speakers Series website.

Contact Allyson Nichols at [email protected].