Tom Sullivan didn’t know why he was sitting in the St. Paul City Council chambers on Wednesday afternoon with several members of his family.
“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on,” he admitted.
His son, Mike, had asked Tom “for a couple of hours of my time” and drove him to City Hall. He still was unclear what was happening when they walked into the chambers before the council’s 5:30 p.m. public hearings session, but he was beginning to feel uneasy.
Moments later, council member Pat Harris asked Tom to join him in front of the council. Pat's brother is Mike Harris, who preceded him on the City Council and is married to Tom’s daughter, Seanne, who works at St. Thomas . . . one of those “St. Paul Small” relationships.With Tom standing next to him, Pat read a proclamation that July 6, 2011, was “Tom Sullivan Day” St. Paul.
Sullivan recently retired as a philosophy professor after 45 years on the faculty at St. Thomas. His honors and his accomplishments were many during his career, as the proclamation ably notes:
“WHEREAS, in the late summer of 1938, Tom Sullivan was the first child born to Eleanor and Thomas Sullivan, a Chicago firefighter, setting the stage for a lifetime of service and commitment to others; and
“WHEREAS, by working diligently on his academic studies, Tom received his Baccalaureate and Masters Degrees from DePaul University, and ultimately his Doctorate from St. John’s University, New York, with a thesis on 20th Century Analytic Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein; and
“WHEREAS, on July 27, 1963, Tom and Ginny were married and have six wonderful children and 18 equally wonderful grandchildren; and
“WHEREAS, after establishing himself in Saint Paul, Tom arrived at the University of St. Thomas in 1966, where for 45 years he lectured philosophical topics with the purpose of broadening a student’s world view; and
“WHEREAS, Tom was recognized for his commitment to teaching by being selected multiple times as “Teacher of the Year” by his students, and in 1985 he was acknowledged by his colleagues as “Professor of the Year”; and
“WHEREAS, desiring to broaden the University of St. Thomas experience, Tom promoted the “THINK St. Paul” lecture series, opened classrooms to parents of undergraduates, and assisted in pioneering the Renaissance Program allowing liberal arts students the opportunity to take extra business courses; and
“WHEREAS, Tom co-published The Agnostic Inquirer: Revelation from a Philosophical Standpoint, as well as authored and co-authored more than 50 scholarly articles in over 30 periodicals and books; and
“WHEREAS, even though his last official day at the University of St. Thomas was May 31, 2011 and he is now considered a “Man of Leisure,” Tom will continue to write serious philosophical works, and looks forward to traveling, enjoying baseball, but most of all spending time with his family; now, therefore
“BE IT RESOLVED, that Saint Paul extends its deepest gratitude to Tom for over four decades of dedication to our City and for his tireless efforts in teaching our students the value of education, community and friendship; and be it
“FINALLY RESOLVED, that July 6, 2011, be officially declared Tom Sullivan Day in the great City of Saint Paul.”
When contacted Friday about the event, Sullivan laughed, said he was deeply honored and replied – jokingly ... we think – when asked where he had hung the wood plaque with the proclamation:
“It’s in the bottom of the drawer.”