St. Thomas alumnus to be a torch bearer for 2008 Olympic Games

St. Thomas alumnus to be a torch bearer for 2008 Olympic Games

Dr. Tom Hawkins, a 1986 St.Thomas alumnus who is head of the International School of Beijing, China, is one of more than 20,000 people selected to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay.

By the time they conclude the relay at the games' opening ceremonies Aug. 8, runners will have carried the torch some 85,000 miles – the longest distance of any Olympic torch relay since the tradition began at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The torch's six-continent journey began March 24 at the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Olympia, Greece.

Hawkins will run about 200 meters in Dalian, China, on July 19 as the torch makes its way to the host city of Beijing. The torch will be carried through more than 150 cities in China alone.

Hawkins isn't the first Tommie selected to participate in an Olympic Torch Relay; Shaun (Leslie) Olson '94 was a torchbearer for the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City. But it's a unique opportunity just the same.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime [experience], and I am very honored to have the chance to carry the Olympic torch for these games," Hawkins said. "What makes the opportunity even more special is that I am a foreigner carrying the torch in China – testament to the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay theme, 'Journey of Harmony.'"

Minnesota natives, Hawkins and his wife, Marcia Carlson, have four children and have lived in Beijing for the past six years. As head of the largest international school in Beijing (ISB enrolls nearly 1,900 students), Hawkins was selected by one of the relay's presenting partners and sponsors (Samsung) to signify the importance of education and highlight his dedication to community service.

The family is excited to be living in the host city of the Olympics, as they have seen many changes in the city in preparation for the games.

"China is a wonderful, fascinating and sometimes frustrating place – as are many Asian cities with more than 15 million people," Hawkins said. "Preparation for the Olympics has certainly changed the look and the feel of the city, mostly for the better.”

Now Hawkins is trying to score something that will make his Olympic experience truly complete: tickets to the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies.