I first met Tom Hokr at a meeting of the Alumni Association Board in the spring of 2011. Tom had served as president of the board from 2009-10, and after stepping down as president he continued to sit as a member. It was during that meeting that Tom's commitment to Saint John's impressed me. Clearly, his passion for Saint John's ran deep.
In a recent conversation I asked Tom if there was any specific event or situation that had made a particular impact during his time at Saint John's. Tom didn't identify any one event; rather, he described it more along the lines of a gradual realization that he came to. "For me, like many of us, the impact of Saint John's revealed itself over time. I didn't know it was happening, but one day I just knew it was there, like an invisible hand. I realized that my time at Saint John's had provided me a sound base and orientation to be productive in many aspects of my life."
However, Tom does recall three specific individuals who did have a direct impact on his life: Fr. Godfrey Diekmann, Professor Ray Larson, and Fr. Don Talafous. He credits them with "finding a way to take an average student and inspire him to excel." They were also examples of the great sense of community found at Saint John's. Tom recounts a visit to campus, fifteen years after graduation. Then, and on another occasion, both Fr. Don and Fr. Godfrey approached him, greeted him by name, and asked how he was.
"It speaks to the great sense of community. And it's a powerful memory that excites me even today when I think about it. You may be out of sight, but you're never out of mind."
That tangible sense of community is what inspires Tom and his wife Mary to support Saint John's today. Tom believes it is important for all Johnnies to give back to their alma mater and to support the current and future Johnnies who will grow and learn in that community. And obviously there are many ways in which to give back. Financially there's the Student Fund, the capital campaign and organizations like the J-Club. Then there's the chance to share time and talent through involvement in the Young Alumni Committee, the Alumni Association and the local alumni chapters.
There are also many projects and programs that harness the talents of alumni. Tom is particularly proud of his involvement with the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship. "This is just one example of how Saint John's has adapted to our ever-changing world and the environment, and yet it is grounded in community."
One of the great pleasures of my own work at Saint John's has been the chance to meet so many alumni and friends of the University. Each has a unique story to tell about connections to Saint John's, and Tom's is particularly compelling to me. Tom is one of so many alumni who have had a transformational experience at Saint John's, and have chosen to give back to the community that has given them so much. Whether it's time, talent or treasure -- or in Tom's case all three -- these alumni join together to help pass to the next generation of Johnnies the experience of community. And for that I'd like to say: "thanks for all you do for SJU!"