Skip To Content Skip To Menu Skip To Footer

Tom Work '74

Tom Work

Donor Profile

Tell me about your Dickinson experience.

Dickinson provided the liberal-arts education I hoped to have when I transferred to the college after two years as a music major at Ithaca College. What I sought and received was a richly diverse experience. My high school guidance counselor suggested Dickinson. With two years to complete Dickinson’s core requirements and a major in psychology, I bustled. 

My first class at the college was Latin at 8 a.m. with Dr. Robert Sider. From that day forward, I felt like a kid in a toy store. The breadth of Dickinson’s core curriculum fit the bill. My roommates and friends were tremendous. I enjoyed all of my teachers and found many of them inspiring. Never could I imagine that decades later, among my fondest memories would be two classical studies teachers who taught a language I would not have studied had I not turned to Dickinson. 

Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you in your life?

It did so in at least two respects, one immediate and one deferred. The immediate and ongoing benefits were in the field of law I chose—estates and trusts—where a holistic view of the challenges clients face with their families, wealth and businesses applies everything a liberal-arts education can muster. 

Both in working with estate-planning clients of many occupations and in my leadership roles in the community, the liberal-arts education Dickinson provided helped me become a thoughtful problem solver who respects diverse approaches to the same end. 

As I near retirement, the love of learning I acquired at Dickinson has lured me to subjects foreign to my occupation.

What inspired your gift to Dickinson?

When my mother, and last parent, passed away in March, I wanted to memorialize both of my wonderful parents with an ever-bearing gift. 

I also wanted to recognize two particularly influential teachers at Dickinson, Robert Sider and Philip Lockhart, who taught classics and my language requirement, Latin. Both professors had an important role in my Dickinson experience. When Professor Lockhart realized I was a transfer student, he took the time to get to know me and offered me a recommendation to professional school. Professor Sider was a fireball whose passion for classical languages and teaching inspired my lifelong love of learning.   

Third was a desire to give something back to a college that has served me very well.

What do you hope your gift will do for fellow Dickinsonians?

There was no question in my mind that I would use a gift to Dickinson College of some sort to memorialize my parents. When I learned through one of the college’s development officers that President Ensign wants to bolster internship opportunities for students, the shoe fit. 

Internships offer several practical benefits to students. They are a means to verify or refute a career choice. They provide students with feedback from outside the academy. And they refine the skills employers most value—clarity in expression, capacity to analyze information and data, respect for collaboration and adaptability. Ironically, the same skills define a successful liberal-arts student, but we have missed opportunities to brand and market that concept.    

Why do you feel that it is important to give back to Dickinson?

Just as we don’t learn by osmosis, schools like Dickinson don’t run on fumes.  My family’s circumstances strongly compelled me to pay forward some of what I received. I grew up in a household with little discretionary income and no vacations. But my maternal grandfather, a high school graduate who never attended college, so valued education that he funded four years of college for each of his four grandchildren. I hope I can help open for others the doors my grandfather opened for me.  

What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?

I have many great memories of Dickinson. Two are outstanding. First, after a Latin class in my second semester, Dr. Philip Lockhart asked me to follow him to his office, where he seated me in the “Chair of Latin” I would later learn was reserved for him. He acknowledged that I was a transfer student new to Dickinson and how difficult it was for transfer students to obtain teacher recommendations to enter graduate or professional schools. He offered to provide one for me. I doubt anyone has ever been more thoughtful, deliberate and genuinely kind to me. It was Dr. Lockhart who later called me at home between my last class and graduation to invite me into Phi Beta Kappa. The sum of those experiences blows me away to this day. 

The second memory was of an extraordinary coincidence. For nearly 10 years, my role in recruiting lawyers to my firm took me to Carlisle for interviews at the law school. That I never stopped by the college to visit a professor bothered my conscience every year as I left the town. In my last year of recruiting, I was near the turnpike outside of Carlisle when I turned around, miraculously found a parking spot near East College and entered the building. It had been at least 20 years since my graduation from Dickinson. Dr. Lockhart had retired by that time. Professor Sider recognized me with the greeting, “Good to see you, Tom” as I entered East College. He changed his plans for the afternoon and spent the next three hours catching up with me. 

Can you tell us about what you do outside of work—hobbies, interests, etc.?

My wife and I raised three delightful children, and family has always been my chief interest. Besides that, I enjoy gardening, SCUBA diving (now limited to warm waters), travel, photography and extensive volunteer leadership roles in the community.

What advice would you would give to today’s students?

One piece begets many: Credit others daily with as many of your own accomplishments as your humility permits. The payback is huge.


Published February 11, 2019