He is St. Thomas.

The students looked curiously, cautiously and some even admiringly when he entered class that morning a few weeks ago. The man with whom we get to team teach the large 80+ student section of Communication and Citizenship, COJO 111, had dressed for the occasion: a lecture about how our identities are socially constructed through interaction with others. And how does one dress for a Tuesday morning 9:55 class on socialization through communication? In a white sport coat with a pink carnation, of course.

Tom Connery will be honored tomorrow at St. Thomas Day as the 2011 Professor of the Year! Is it because he begins class by offering a tuneful rendition of (yes, you should sing along): “A white sport coat, and a pink carnation; I’m all dressed up for the dance. A white sport coat and a pink carnation, I’m all alone in a romance. Once you told me long ago, to the prom with me you’d go. Now you’ve changed your mind it seems. Someone else will hold my dreams”? Could be. Or is it because he then shares a photo of himself on the eve of his high school prom, proudly standing in his white sport coat and with a perky pink carnation next to his uncle’s whitewall-tired red convertible, the introduction to an energizing lecture about the formation of social identities over time? Maybe. But it’s just part of his story.

The classroom, the office, Scooter’s and the pool are all part of Tom’s Tommie World. His natty attire notwithstanding, Tom’s passion comes out in bursts of ideas and insights, his eyes widening slightly, his voice raised. There is no sleeping when Professor Connery is lecturing. Beyond OEC and JRC, Tom’s network of friends and colleagues link together all of St. Thomas. He’ll sit in Scooter’s for lunch at the table with the Economics and Political Science crowd, visit in the offices of the Art History faculty where he serves as “guest chair” during Mark Stansbury-O’Donnell’s sabbatical, and then head to McCarthy Gymnasium for exercise and informal chatting with the South Campus folks.

Tom’s presence is big, boisterous and loud, and his connections are real, sincere and valued.  A walk across campus with him is full of hellos and “how ya doins” to the passing students, faculty and staff. There are no corners of the campus he doesn’t touch as he goes about his day, a sure sign of how much he has integrated the institution into his life.

Tom Connery is this year’s Professor of the Year because Tom Connery is St. Thomas.

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4 Responses

  1. Bob Zyskowski, St. Paul

    Many Tommies may be unaware of Professor Connery’s off-campus work when he served on the board of directors of The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. What a great help it was to the journalists on our staff to have Tom to question. As chair of the board’s News and Editorial Committee, he was a consistent and persistent advocate for strong journalism, a tradition that blossomed into recognition as the best diocesan newspaper in North America. And, thankfully, we have UST’s Mark Neuzil now to carry on that great tradition.

    Tom Connery: a class act on and off campus.

  2. Helen Hunter, Inver Grove Heights

    Prior to retiring from St. Thomas, I worked with Tom in various capacities for almost 25 years. You are right. Tom IS St. Thomas. To me his greatest traits were his integrity, his honesty and his willingness to go the extra mile. You do St. Thomas proud, Tom. I am glad to know you!

  3. Michele Hodgson, Maplewood

    I took Tom’s editing course back in the early ’80s, and without doubt it was THE catalyst for my career in publishing. He also gave me a wonderful opportunity to return to the classroom as an adjunct journalism instructor. He is more than a fine teacher. He is a generous mentor and friend. Congratulations, Tom!

  4. Pat Sirek, West St. Paul

    A perfect choice! Congrats, Tom!