Good evening. Tonight we mourn the loss of Professor Tom Robertson. Tom was a professor of Automotive Technology who passed away unexpectedly over Thanksgiving weekend. After serving as Treasurer of the College of DuPage Faculty Association for more than ten years, he decided to turn his energies elsewhere. Faculty Senate had planned to honor Tom’s service in advance of his passing. That planned resolution took a decidedly different turn after his passing. The comments below were written by English professor Tim Henningsen. Thank you, Tim, for your eloquence in the face of adversity.
While Tom won’t be in our presence to hear the following words, many of them would still be the same if he were here.
First and foremost, Tom was an outstanding teacher. He was beloved. Students in the auto tech lab were proud to have him. They would brag to other faculty about him. They were excited to showcase their diagnosis of the vehicles when they’d learn something, hoping to impress him. He’d often keep his poker face on while inspecting his students’ work, and he’d push them to learn more.
Tom was a generous and ever-present colleague. He was our CODFA Treasurer. He was a division curriculum chair. He was always reliable, and stepped up when colleagues couldn’t. His long tenure with CODFA meant we relied on him for institutional history. He had an incredible memory.
Tom was simultaneously a mechanic and an academic. He was a community college graduate himself, attending Baltimore CC where he studied automotive technology. He earned his bachelor’s in automotive science from the Pennsylvania College of Technology, and later obtained a master’s in teaching and learning from the University of Illinois. He had industry experience, working for Ford and Chrysler. He was always tinkering with something, always craving learning.
Tom was a noonballer, that’s our colloquialism for a bunch of old and slow COD employees who play gym rats over our lunch breaks. Tom wasn’t the most athletic player. A colleague recently joked that he would “cringe when [Tom] launched a 3-pointer.” But Tom was often the happiest guy out there, and it was a joy sharing the floor with him.
Tom was a midwesterner. Minnesota-bred, which usually means kind, honest, hard-working, and a sense of humor which was admirable, though not always enviable (his email signature for years, read: “No trees were killed in the sending of this message, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.”). That’s Tom.
Tom was a husband and an adventurer. Many of our faculty colleagues know Tom’s widow, Pika, quite well. They traveled the world together, enjoying jaunts to Australia, Dubai, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Morocco, France, Spain, England, Alaska, Hungary, and Hawaii. He was, it seemed, in constant motion. We wish the very best for Pika, and hope she knows that we love and support her.
Tom was a volunteer. He worked locally for Sycamore Youth Baseball, umpiring and coaching kids in the community. He volunteered with the Boy Scouts, teaching worldly survival skills. And there are countless other community programs, ranging from Minnesota to Maryland, where Tom helped his fellow neighbors.
Tom had just turned 43.
In the face of this adversity I am proud to say that our institution is rallying together. Dean of Business and Applied Technology Kris Fay has been beyond supportive to help Tom’s students and colleagues on Monday morning, and in helping establish the scholarship in his name.
Ellen Farrow of the College Foundation has been helpful and supportive as well. Tom’s friend Bob Clark, professor and coordinator of the HVAC program. Bob has been tireless in his efforts on Tom’s behalf. I can say with some certainty he hasn’t had much time to sleep in the intervening days as he works to make personal and professional arrangements.
Tomorrow the College will undertake the Celebration of Life in Tom’s honor at the Automotive Tech center at 3pm. Bob assured many “Tomisms” will be shared.
Last week, Faculty Senate voted to make a sizable donation in Tom’s name. In addition, noonball players also have taken up a contribution.
Colleagues and friends across the institution have come together in Tom’s honor, his wife and his students. This is a testament to how stand together to support each other.
Please visit foundation.cod.edu to contribute in Tom’s name.