Tom has been a mentor at Up-A-Creek for 6 years. He joined the team in 2013 and is a passionate and invested mentor. The first word that comes to mind when we think of Tom is enthusiasm. It shows whether he’s talking about space, cleaning coolant, or machining parts. His passion is infectious; it draws you in and engages you. His excitement makes it easy to learn because he truly loves teaching. Tom’s official competition role is even SPIRIT MASTER because of his immense team spirit. He even lets us paint our team logo onto his head. Whether he is teaching us about CNC programing, gravitational waves, or and animal group names with the energy of a kid the night before Christmas, he always supports our interests. If we ever need a mentor for outreach, we can always count on Tom. When we come to him with an idea, he always finds a way to make it happen.
Tom teaches with patience and unfailing good humor. He doesn’t step in and do the work, instead he guides you through it. I remember learning to CAM with students gathered around, learning alongside. Tom let me work through the problems, and broke it down so it was never overwhelming. He stepped in at just the right moments with care. When I made a mistake, he consoled me with a joke and a helpful word. Tom shows us how to fail with grace and determination in spite of the high stakes in our machine shop. Remarkably, Tom learned machining just so he could teach students at UACR; his regular job is as a software engineer at Ball Aerospace. He shows us how to learn and grow from our mistakes. He teaches and models that it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, but rather a sign of strength. Tom is one of the most courageous men I know, because he knows when to ask for help.
Wherever Tom goes, he creates community. The machine shop is a tightly knit family because of Tom. We sing along to Disney songs, go out to coffee, and talk together for hours. We have all flourished because of his mentorship. One student, Teegan, said, “When I was a freshman, Tom really made me feel welcome and made me more comfortable with who I am. Tom is definitely a huge part of my life.” He always cares about what is going on in our lives, and guides us.
Tom’s genuinely kind nature is clear everywhere. Once, he took us to his favorite coffee shop. As soon as he walked in, the baristas greeted him happily. You could see the room brighten as he asked about the cashier’s day. He treats everyone with respect and kindness, and teaches others to do the same. He sets a great example to us through his relationship with the other mentors. Bruce, a new mentor, said this about Tom: “When I joined, he was welcoming and kind. He helped me step into my role as a mentor with graciousness. He demonstrates gracious professionalism every day.” Tom is always unflappable and joyful, full of tomfoolery and wisdom, and he is an amazing role model for us all.