Friday, December 08, 2017

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Eulogy For Tom Thoms, Nov 6th 2017

I met Tom in a faculty-reading group in the late 1990’s at Pearl River Community College.  I was a young, new faculty member and was more than a little in awe of Tom.  Tom was a cool, veteran teacher whose classes immediately filled up when open registration began.  Tom was the old-school guy with the stacks of big yellow legal pads.  He was the guy who used chalk and hand wrote his notes long hand every day on the board for his classes.  Tom was the larger than life guy with a mustache that gave Tom Selleck a run for the money.  He was the guy with an infectious grin who loved talking about politics, the stock market, and Mississippi State football.  Tom was the guy everyone wanted to hang out with at lunch.  Tom had a lunch posse that was legendary; they were so cool, they ate lunch off campus on Fridays.   I was not a part of that lunch posse early on, but through the faculty reading group, Tom became my friend.  

For almost two decades, we worked together and played together; we celebrated happy times with and for each other; we shared some tough and even sad times with each other, both professionally and personally.  I’d like to think that I’ve become a better person from having a friend like Tom.  I know I’ve become a better football fan through discussing the highs and lows of Mississippi State and Auburn football with my friend Tom.   I am grateful that Tom was a part of my life.

I’m an English teacher, so I like metaphors.  I’d like to tell you a bit about my friend and colleague, Tom, through a sports metaphor.  Early on in our friendship, one of the ways our relationship developed was through the game of golf.  Neither of us was very good at golf.  In fact, most folks would probably consider us duffers.  But we were graceful duffers.  And I’m not talking about “graceful” in the physical sense.  I’m talking about being “graceful” in the spiritual sense.  We had graceful rules like, “You can take two tee shots off the first hole,” and “A bad lie is your own fault.”  Between us both there were so many foot wedges and hand mashies, and mulligans and “do overs” that I’m convinced the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was right there in the midst of every single round that Tom and I ever played together.

Tom and I were both convinced that life was a lot like golf.  Life, like golf takes place somewhere between the ridiculous and the sublime.  When my golf game was not going well and things on the course were at their most absurd, my friend Tom was right there beside me, a witness to my shortcomings and my plights, always the listener, ever the encourager, ready with advice and positive feedback.  One of his favorite sayings when a round was going poorly was, “Well, Eric, sometimes you just gotta grind through it.”  In the classroom, Tom was the same way with his students.  No matter what a student was going though, he was right there beside them, encouraging them to grind through the challenges of both their academic and their personal lives.  Tom’s office was next to mine.  When he was in his office, the door was always wide open.  When he wasn’t there, his door was rarely locked.  Over the years I have heard Tom counsel, tutor, and mentor students semester after semester, year after year.   There are reasons Tom was one of the most popular instructors on campus.  He was one of the best in the classroom, making the world of psychology come to life for his students.  If you want proof go to YOUTUBE and type in “Tom Thoms and His Elephant Impression.”  You are in for a 15 second treat of what life in class with Mr. Thoms was all about.   

Tom had the ability to connect with the individual student both in and out of the classroom and help them through the tough parts of life both on and off campus.  The highlight of my academic year was getting to team teach the Leadership Honors Forum each spring with my friend, Tom.  I got to work with Tom week in and week out, preparing and then teaching with him in the same classroom.  I got to witness the joy he brought to students’ lives as he taught.  I got to learn how to be a better teacher and a better person by watching Tom in front of the students.  I got to see first hand why Tom was an excellent choice for the Pearl River Community College Mississippi Humanities Counsel Teacher of the Year award.  The words of our colleague Genny Kemp sum it up best, “Tom was a difference maker.”

On the rare occasions when my golf game actually went well, my friend Tom was right there in those few sublime moments, celebrating joyously my successes and achievements, with high fives, fist bumps, and his unmistakable and infectious million dollar grin that we all know and love.  Tom brought this same enthusiasm and joy to my life off the course.  I will never forget the day Kate, my daughter, was born.  I got to introduce her to my friend, Tom Thoms.  That ranked right up there with getting to show Kate off to my own dad.   I’ve seen Tom celebrate just as enthusiastically with students as they succeeded on assignments, barely passed exams, or came back to campus to let him know what had been going on in their lives after they left Pearl River.  

M. Scott Peck says that love is an activity, an investment.  And I think this is what made Tom a true friend and a great teacher.  Tom had a special connection to people because he took an active role in our lives and invested in us as individuals.  One quick golf story about Tom precisely illustrates what Peck was getting at.  Tom loved new golf clubs.  He always chased the illusive “new” club that would immediately take three strokes off his score.  For Christmas one year, Linda gave Tom a very nice fairway wood.  Tom was so excited about this club he could hardly stand it.  The problem was that after several rounds of playing with this new club, Tom figured out he couldn’t hit it a lick.  So – for the next several rounds it just sat in his bag.  At some point, Tom offered to let me swing the club.  And I did.  And it was AWESOME!  It took three strokes off MY score.  The next time we played, I asked to borrow the club and Tom said without any hesitation, “Sure.”  It worked so well for me that I kept borrowing it out of his bag until one day he said, “Eric, why don’t you just keep it in your bag awhile.”  That club is still in my bag. 

Since Tom was a chemical engineer before he became a psychologist and later a teacher of psychology, I thought it almost a necessity to invoke Carl Jung’s quote about relationships.  Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances:  if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”  If you were a part of Tom’s life – a family member, a student, a colleague, a friend – you know what kind of a reaction and transformation Tom had on your life.   I am confident that Tom’s ability to touch our lives in the ways that he did was largely due to the love and grace he had for each of us.  I am also confident that Tom’s love and grace flowed from the transforming relationship he had with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.   And I am confident that because of the transforming power of grace, fellow believers in Jesus will one day sit down at the Lord’s lunch table.  And at that lunch table will be our friend Tom, grinning ear to ear.  And we will celebrate together Christ’s victory over death. 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Halloween 2016

                                                      Captain Spaulding, Rey, and Paul Finebaum

Monday, October 26, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget . . .

He that dwells in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  Psalms 91:1

Friday, June 12, 2015

Go USA Women's Soccer!

Special K getting ready for USA vs Sweden with home-made Bangers and Mash!