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Press Releases

Monday, October 11, 2004

Champion Chess Coach Thomas-EL is Fall Riall Lecturer

SALISBURY, MD---For Salome Thomas-EL, chess is not just a game; it’s a way to get inner-city students motivated in life, and he has succeeded beautifully as they have received worldwide recognition as eight-time national chess champions. He speaks about his winning ways both in the classroom and on the chessboard 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 20, in Holloway Hall Auditorium as part of Salisbury University’s Pauline E. Riall Lecture Series. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he began teaching in the city’s public school system in 1987 at Vaux Middle School, where he earned national acclaim for helping his students find a way out of their brutal surroundings not with guns and knives, but with pawns and knights. “I’ve been to too many funerals,” Thomas-EL said. “I need to go to more graduations.” Under his leadership, students at the school not only learned the game and its intricate strategies, but became national champions. Armed with only a chessboard and a profound belief in their potential, his faith and commitment have motivated hundreds of Philadelphia children to attend magnet high schools and continue into higher education. A doctoral student at Lehigh University, Thomas-EL studied in London and Cambridge, England. For his position as a role model in Philadelphia’s public schools, he earned KYW-CBS Television’s “Making a Difference” Award and the Marcus A. Foster Award for outstanding school administration. He also earned the University of Pennsylvania’s distinguished Martin Luther King Award. The Philadelphia Daily News named him “A Future Black History Maker.” He has appeared in Reader’s Digest and on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, C-SPAN Book TV and National Public Radio. His book, I Choose to Stay, released by Kensington Publishing in 2003, reflects on his choice to continue serving urban schools rather than accept six-figure offers to teach in suburban districts nearby. Now at John F. Reynolds Elementary School in North Philadelphia, Thomas-EL continues to make a difference in his students’ lives. He has established reading, breakfast and Saturday tutoring programs there, along with continuing his chess coaching efforts at Vaux. He also hosts college visits for students, exposing them to futures they once thought impossible for themselves. Thomas-EL’s lecture is free and the public is invited. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at

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