Tom Giddings Memorial Scholarship

Tom's Early Years

Tom's Early Years
Remembering Tom
Tom "Out In & Of Africa"
Past Award Winners & Selection Process
2010 Wrap-Up & Photos
2011 Wrap-Up & Photos
2012 Wrap-Up & Photos
Remembering Jack
Sponsors & Contributors
Officers | Board Committees

The Early Years Prior to TechnoServe

"Tom inherited his love of the outdoors from Ted; this manifested itself in later years
through Tom’s deep feeling for the unspoiled beauty of Africa.”
“He was co-captain of the football team in 1958 … and joined Delta Tau Delta
at Brown University of which he became president in 1962.”
"He’s remembered … as very popular … with a warm sense of humor and a robust appreciation of life, and as an early advocate for the less privileged.”

In his A REMEMBRANCE OF TOM GIDDINGS, Ed Bullard has eloquently captured the nature of Tom's service in Africa for TechnoServe. In this section, we'd like to briefly describe Tom as those of us who grew up with him remember him. The most memorable characteristic of Tom Giddings was the combination of leadership with humility. Tom was modest and unassuming, never placing his self-interest above others. For that reason, he inspired immense trust, admiration and affection from others. Tom led by example and by his unselfish team orientation and genuine concern for others. This unusual and effective combination became the defining characteristic of his service.

The Early Years  (1942 through 1963)
Tom was born January 14, 1942, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He was the oldest of three children: his brother David was born in 1943; his sister Mary Ann in 1947. Tom's father Ted was the long-time City Editor of the Berkshire Eagle and wrote a weekly column on hunting and fishing until 2004. (Ted passed in June 2005 at the age of 99.  He was a remarkable man:  not coincidentally, those qualities of leadership and service that we celebrate in Tom were first displayed by Ted.)  Tom inherited his love of the outdoors from Ted; this manifested itself in later years through Tom's deep feeling for the unspoiled beauty of the Africa that he first encountered in the 1960s.
Until Tom's later adolescence, his mother Ann was a full-time housewife -- which became particularly full-time as the Giddings backyard and basement evolved into the athletic and social center of an expanding circle of friends. (After Tom entered college, Ann worked for many years at Dawes School.  Also a remarkable person, Ann passed away in December 2010, at the age of 100.  She was instrumental in instilling the unselfish concern for others that became a hallmark of Tom's leadership. )

Tom With Dawes Buddies
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Dawes buddies - celebrating City Sixth-Grade Touch Football Championship (1952):
1st table - Clockwise from bottom:  Richard "Tiger" Bove, Dan Solin, John Dorman, Jerry Lee,  Jack O'Gara, Andy Clarke, Tom Giddings
2nd table - unidentified, Mike Coughlin, Johnny O'Neil, unidentified, Gary Scarafoni, Ted Walters
In Tom's early years, the Giddings backyard was the stadium for football, basketball, and baseball (and hide-and-go-seek, archery, badminton, etc.), and the basement housed pool and ping pong tables, a dart board, and also served on occasion as a boxing or wrestling ring. Somewhat later, it became the weight room and was always the basic clubhouse. In Tom's college years, the house became an extended fraternity and dorm.
Tom's early activities included Cub Scouts, birdwatching, hunting and fishing, and athletics. He also had an afternoon paper route for many years. He displayed his capacity for independent thought early by becoming a fan of the Cleveland Indians even though his peer group in this Western Massachusetts city rooted either for the Red Sox or the Yankees.
He attended Dawes School through the sixth grade (that year, Dawes won the City championships in football, basketball, and baseball). Tom entered South Junior High when that facility was first opened in the fall of 1953. He participated in all sports and was introduced to organized football in the fall of 1955.

Ninth Grade Prom
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Ninth Grade Prom: 
Tom and Margot Shandoff
Tom entered Pittsfield High School in the fall of 1956. His sophomore year, he played football and basketball. (In those years, with very rare exceptions sophomores played junior varsity basketball. Although Tom is now remembered as a football player, it's worth noting that he served as co-captain of that basketball team.)
Tom's high school years were very normal for a teenager of that or any era. His interests mainly revolved around his friends, sports, girlfriends, and studies, in approximately that order. He was co-captain of the football team in 1958 and very active in extracurricular activities. Due to football injuries, he dropped high school varsity basketball but remained active in that sport in the CYC and Boys Club leagues. He also led his friends in daily after-school hunting excursions in the spring of 1959. He's remembered by his friends and classmates during these school years, as very popular, energetic and active; a real "man's man" with a warm sense of humor and a robust appreciation of life.
His nickname was "Mr. Dillon" for the character in "Gunsmoke", a popular TV program at that time. Part of the reason was a physical resemblance to Marshall Matt Dillon -- but it was more than just that. Even then, Tom conveyed a sense of quiet strength and determination.
Tom was naturally physically strong (father Ted had been a lineman and heavyweight wrestler in college, and brother David went on to captain his college football team as an outstanding lineman – Tom and David were both elected to the Pittsfield Football Hall of Fame in 2005). Tom developed his strength further by hard physical work during his summer vacations. While he was in high school, he worked summers on a farm; during his college vacations, he worked on heavy construction. The agricultural and construction experiences became relevant to what later became Tom's life work in Africa.

PHS 1958 FB w CoCapt Tom
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Captain Tom
"Mr. Dillon"

'58 PHS Starters vs St Joe
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'58 PHS Starters vs St Joe:
Line (l->r):  Dave Giddings, Tom Giddings, Eddie O'Hearn, Chip Hart, Johnny Sottile, Jack O'Gara, and Bill Seely
Backfield (l->r):  Richie Walsh, Jim Bridges, Phil Balmer, and Charlie Hinckly
Tom entered Brown University (his father's alma mater) in Providence, Rhode island, in the fall of 1959. He majored in political science, played freshman football, and joined Delta Tau Delta fraternity, which he became president of in 1962. He's remembered with admiration by his Brown classmates for his ouspoken denunciation of pseudo-intellectualism and, more significantly, as an early advocate for the less priveleged. (In the early, as distinct from the late, 1960s, these would have been distinctly minority positions at an Ivy League school). He is also remembered fondly for his fun-loving approach to undergraduate life.
During Tom's college years, an annual athletic event for his friends in Pittsfield was the "Snow Bowl". Every year, on December 31, Tom and his friends would assemble at the South Junior High athletic fields for a game of tackle football -- without any pads. Of course, in Western Massachusetts on December 31, the snow was usually knee deep (this was not an activity for the timid).

Like Father - Like Son
Both Brown U Grads

The Later Years  (1963 to 1990)
After graduation from Brown in June, 1963, Tom entered Boston College Law School in the fall of that year. Fairly early, he realized that the practice of law was not what he wanted to do with his life. After completion of his first year, Tom joined the Peace Corps in the summer of 1964.
Immediately after his initial Peace Corps assignment in Kenya, upon returning to the United States, Tom taught Swahili to Peace Corps volunteers at Columbia. There he met Susan Thiermann who became his wife in 1968.  Susie has also made considerable contributions to Africa, first as a Peace Corps volunteer and then as a teacher for many years. Tom and Sue had two sons, Matthew and Ian. At this time, Susie is still teaching in Africa. To see Ed Bullard's Remembrance of Tom, please click on A REMEMBRANCE OF TOM GIDDINGS for the remainder of Tom's service in Africa.

PHS 30th Reunion
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PHS 30th Reunion:
Left-to-right:  Jack O'Gara, Janice Jones Clouse, Bill Eramo, Carole Esoldi Nichols, Hildy Ferguson Macy, Tom Giddings, Paul Sweeney