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Tom Tipton Tribute
Seminole State College
(This was presented at Tom Tipton's Memorial on 2/27/98 at the Palmetto Ave. Baptist Church in Sanford, FL.)
Larry McAdam, who taught with Tom for nearly 30 years at Seminole State College delivered this eulogy. "Biography of Tom:
Let me give you a quick biography of Tom. Tom was born in Jan. of 1936 in Elizabethton, Tenn. He graduated from High School in 1954 from Bristol Tenn. HS. Bristol is a border city and Tom always emphasized that he was from the Tenn. side and NOT the Virginia side. Dave Green used to kid him about this since Dave is from the Virginia side. Soon after high school Tom joined the Air Force for a four-year tour.
While in the Air Force he spent some time in Libya and North Africa. He used to tell me about his furloughs to Sweden and Norway. He thought those Scandinavian ladies were lovely.
Tom played baseball while in HS and in the service. His specialty was playing center field. After service, Tom enrolled in East Tennessee State University in the fall of 1958. He did his undergraduate work in three years rather than the customary four years. During this time, he worked at nights loading bread trucks along with using the GI Bill to support himself. Upon graduating from East Tennessee State University, he enrolled in the big school known as the University of Tenn. as a law student. This is when his connection with UT started. It took him one year to realize that a law career was not for him. He then enrolled in graduate school at East Tennessee State University, the same school he attended as an undergraduate in 1962.
In 1963, Tom married his former wife, Gayle. They later had three children: Tisha, Carl and Tammy. In 1964, Tom received his master's degree, and in the fall of that year took a job as business manager at Ferrum Junior College in Virginia.
At Ferrum Junior College, Tom taught only one economics class per term. It was a situation he did not care for. In the spring-summer of 1966, Tom heard about a newly created teaching position at a new junior college in Central Florida. What Tom wanted was a full-time teaching position. He interviewed with the new president at that time, Dr. Earl Weldon. As the story goes, and Tom liked to tell this story, during the interview Tom and Dr. Weldon were gazing over empty fields off of 17-92 near Five Points, (not many references around in those days,) Tom asked, "Where is the college?"
Dr. Weldon's reply was that, there will be some kind of college here in a couple of months. Tom was part of the original faculty and staff that helped to start Seminole Junior College, now known as Seminole State College. It was three years after this that I met Tom in August of 1968-my first year teaching at Seminole State.
Tom was an enthusiastic and dynamic teacher. Former students can attest to this. Students who made it through his classes are successful people today. Some of his students even majored in economics. His approach to teaching was unique to say the least. He would jump up and down, shout, run around, anything to get the students' attention. Fellow teachers would try not to schedule classes next to Tom's because of the noise. You didn't sleep in his class.
His favorite tactic was to sneak up on the sleeping students banging his hand down hard on their desk. For the rest of the term, students did not sleep in his class, and students in adjacent classes didn't either. Tom had a rough exterior, but inside he was a pussycat. In many cases, he would give money, food and clothing to needy students.
Tom is one of a kind. The expression "when they made him, they threw the mold away," fit Tom. Sheldon Sparks said it better, "they sorta took a piece of this, a part of that and stuck it all together."
Tom loved eating good food. Never met food that he didn't like. He especially liked Loretta's, my wife's, North Carolinian style of cooking. This reminded him of his Mother's cooking. (Look at your watch) Right about now at this time on Fridays, the guys at the college are on their way to a local eatery, and Tom would be joining them.
Tom loved sports, especially football. He was an avid fan of college football, particular the Tennessee Volunteers from his home state. He loved the Volunteers.
On game day he would be dressed up in his Volunteer attire much like Dick Loper and Bill Rencher in their Gator clothing. It was tradition to tailgate at our house whenever the Gators and Volunteers would play. Tom, Dick Loper, Bill Rencher, Bill Berlin and myself would be absorbed in the ball game. My wife, Larry and Susan Bigelow, Art Litka and Sparky were there not to watch the game, but to watch Tom. His football enthusiasm extended to the younger players, helping Carl, his son, coach Pop Warner football. Tom would be pitching in with the other coaches picking up players, dropping them off, taking the young players out to eat after the games. He was on the Board of Directors for Pop Warner football.
You are going to like this story about Tom. Tom has been the time keeper at the Seminole State gymnasium for 30 years. Recently he has been keeping the clock for Ken Patrick's girls basketball team. Joe Sterling, former Seminole State basketball coach, reminded me just recently at Bob Levin's Memorial of this story that involves Tom. During a ball game, the referees' calls were going against Seminole State. The Seminole State's coaches and fans were getting after the refs including Tom, the clock keeper. About midway through all of this, the ref comes over to the Seminoles' head coach and says that this timekeeper needs to be replaced. I have seen players and coaches ejected from games, but never a timekeeper.
Recently this past January I had the opportunity to travel with Tom to Arizona. Back in the fall, I mentioned to Tom I had a chance to travel to Phoenix to attend a conference and would he like to join me. He thought it over and gladly accepted saying we are getting older now and why not enjoy it while you can. Tom thoroughly enjoyed the trip through Arizona, seeing the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, The Red Sandstones of Sodona and many other sites. Since I had some geology courses, he took an interest in our discussions about these formations. Some of you folks know that Tom could at times be a klutz. He was somewhat accident-prone. You can't count the number of car accidents on one or maybe possibly two hands that he's had. As soon as we got to the Grand Canyon, Tom dropped his camera on the rocks. Good thing he didn't drop it over the rim; he would have gone after it!
His camera hits the rocks and the front panel broke off. It exposed some of the electronics inside. We wondered about light leaks in the camera, but didn't know for sure. So Tom went ahead taking pictures. It turned out that many pictures had light streaks so there were light leaks in the camera. This accident followed Tom all the way to Arizona. By the way, I did all of the driving.
As I said earlier, Tom had a rough and crude manner on the outside, but on the inside no one had a bigger heart. He was a teddy bear. Tisha, Tom's daughter, tells me that when she broke her arm and in the hospital, Tom cried-Tisha didn't cry-Tom did! He was a devoted family man not only to his children and grandchildren, but also to his late Mother.
His Mother in later years required constant attention. Many times during an evening's event, Tom would leave early or perhaps not even attend because at the moment his Mother would need immediate care. It was at this time that Tom decided to have a hip replacement. This was not just one hip, but a double hip replacement! The guy was in constant pain for six weeks after surgery, and it took several months of physical therapy to walk again. At this time, he was caring for his bedridden mother with physical problems of his own. How he did this I don't know. It was truly amazing! Larry Bigelow said that Tom was like a bulldog with a bone. His tenacious spirit would carry him through the challenges. Another example of Tom's feistiness, was his battle against prostate cancer. He had surgery this past June and was in the process of beating it.
I don't how many times he thanked the Lord for surviving this ordeal. His tenacity and big heart formed the foundation of his being.
I saw the pictures of the tornado disaster on the news media like yourselves. What we saw is beyond description. I looked at these pictures of destruction, and it reminded me of the same pictures I have seen in meteorology textbooks. You see, one of the courses I teach at the college is Meteorology. One picture I saw in the Sentinel in the last few days was this man and woman searching through rubble for anything meaningful. Except this picture was different; I knew these people. They were Carl and Tammy Tipton. These people were children of a dear friend of yours and mine, their Dad, Thomas Allen Tipton.
God speed Tom. P.S. Tom, Where you are now the Volunteers will beat the Gators every year!"
This was a speech given at the memorial service at Seminole State College.
"At the funeral Friday we heard the story of Tom Tipton's life, from his birth in Tennessee near the Virginia Border, to his completing college in three years, his year in law school, and his commitment to spend his life teaching.
We heard of his love of sports and his favorite team, the Tennessee Vols, and his favorite song, Rocky Top.
But I would like to tell you of another side of Tom Tipton, Tom Tipton the professor. He came to economics through the department of business, where I came through Social Sciences. Yet he focused on the social impact of economic decisions. He was a true professor-not just a person who teaches in a college or university, but a person who professes a discipline. His discipline was economics, and he lived by its principles. Tom knew that the quality of a product will, in most cases, in the long run, drive out the inferior product. He too felt that our product is the educated student, the student who has in his or her head the facts, principles, and tools of logical reasoning to make judgments and take action.
Tom guaranteed the quality of the students who completed his classes. He did not participate in popularity rating. Student evaluations did not phase him although I have heard students sing his praises even as they decried the workload and the assignments. If I taught a student in an economics class, macro or micro, and Tom had had that student for the other class, the student knew what he was supposed to know. He understood demand and supply, the terminology and the graphs. If the course was Micro, the student understood market structure and the ramifications. Tom insisted that the student learn or pay the consequences. Yet, he was a teddy bear for the student who was making a concerned effort and having difficulty. That student he would go out of his way to help.
Tom prepared for his classes. I once estimated that Mr. Tipton had spent 90 hours outside of class preparing for each chapter in the book, and he taught out of three books. He made visuals, and constructed handouts when the technology for doing so was time consuming and laborious.
He graded thousands of papers.
Once when sharing an office with Tom, I remarked to him that one student had seemingly copied an essay from another. I read him part of a paragraph.
"I have one of those at home," he exclaimed!
The next day he brought me two of the essays. Apparently one student had been producing the same essay for several students. What was more important, Tom, reading on the average some 1500 essays or more a term, could remember having read one previously from the short paragraph I read him. He had a remarkable memory.
I believe that he taught more than 10,000 students in his thirty years at Seminole State. He changed their lives.
At a time when people brag if 55% of their students pass the CLAST the first time, many may not understand Tom Tipton's devotion to the quality of his output. Seminole State students competed in Phi Beta Lambda's competitions in economics over the last 17 years. In those competitions economics students took exams covering macro and microeconomics. We didn't know what professor would write the exam, which textbook would be used, or what the emphasis would be.
Yet, Seminole students have been frequent winners at the district competition, where in the best year, we took 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. In state, on our best year, we took 1st, 2nd,and 4th. At national, over the last 17 years we have had a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th. In order to participate at national, you must place first or second at state.
One of our students took 7th place winning a $1000 scholarship in a national economics essay writing contest. Another was an honorable mention in the same contest.
These students and the many others who have reported back their successes are Tom's legacy at Seminole State. It is with great pride that I announce the Tom Tipton Scholarship in Economics.
That award will help us continue the quality of the program that Tom initiated." Lucinda Coulter-Burbach, Economics professor, Seminole State College Those wishing to donate to the Tom Tipton Scholarship Fund should contact Pam Weber, telephone 407.708.2030 or e-mail: email@example.com.
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