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One last walk with Tom: FLC bids farewell to President Stritikus

One last walk with Tom: FLC bids farewell to President Stritikus

Tom talking and laughing with faculty and staff. DURANGO— “Pentagon, hexagon, octagon, Tom is [gon],” read one of the memes flashing on a slideshow as Board of Trustees members delivered heartfelt thank yous to FLC President Tom Stritikus.

The cheeky slideshow, part of a farewell celebration that included a scavenger hunt, was fitting for a president who used humor to relate to students, thought outside the box, took risks, and walked at 100 miles per hour in a whirlwind of energy with one question in mind: What will we do next for our students?

“This gathering is really just a much-deserved community hug and a big love letter to you for your outstanding leadership and courageous service,” said FLC Board of Trustees Chair Mary Rubadeau, highlighting the progress made in the last six years of his leadership.

“All of us are filled with a sense of optimism for the future of Fort Lewis College.”

About 300 people, including students, faculty and staff, community members, and Board of Trustees and FLC Foundation Board, attended the farewell celebration at the Student Union Ballroom.

Mario and Tom playing games.Before the event, Melissa Mount, vice president of Advancement at FLC and CEO of the FLC Foundation, had organized a last “walk with Tom” scavenger hunt through the milestones of his presidency—the COVID pandemic, the launch of Schlessman Family Hall, the College’s reconciliation work, the $10.4 million gift to the Katz Business School, the expansion of the Grub Hub Basic Needs program.

At each of the 12 stops, more people joined in, showing the strong community Stritikus helped to build during his tenure.

During the walk, there was plenty of laughter and a few tears as the group followed Stritikus, who often let them bite the dust. By the time the group arrived at the last stop, the Clocktower, nearly 50 walkers had joined the group that had started with a handful of people.

There, where panels inaccurately depicting FLC’s history as a Federal Indian Boarding School were taken down in 2021, Rubadeau read the board’s resolution recognizing the profound impact that federal Indian boarding schools had on Indigenous communities and reaffirmed the board’s commitment to the College’s reconciliation process. The resolution was approved last August.

“Thank you, Tom, for your leadership on this,” Rubadeau said as she presented a printed and signed copy of the resolution.

“Because our focus is on healing, I have cedar for you,” added Heather Shotton, vice president of Diversity Affairs. “For many of our tribes, cedar is one of our medicinal plants that offers healing and cleansing,” she noted as she gifted Stritikus a small package of cedar.

The Board of Trustees paying homage to Tom. Later, at the Ballroom, Brittany Bitsilly, president of the Associated Students of Fort Lewis College, thanked him for all his work for the FLC community.

“One of the things Tom has taught me is that it’s OK to wing it if you lead with your heart. And that’s all that Tom does in everything he does.”

An overwhelmed Stritikus —rarely seen expressing emotions— thanked the board trustees, foundation members, faculty, and staff.

“Your unabashed leadership around being a place that really believes in inclusion and diversity, your willingness to face history, and your commitment to students at the center helped accelerate our work,” said Stritikus, addressing the board.

“When someone gives to the College, they're giving to the belief that they can have an impact greater than the impact that they could have on their own,” he said, speaking to the FLC Foundation members. “As the stewards of our resources and as the leaders of the Foundation, thank you so much for what you've done. You've made a huge difference in the lasting impact on our community.”

“To our FLC staff: You keep the lights on. You pay the bills. You play the music. You make graduation happen. You raise the money. You nourish our souls and our bodies. You keep our campus beautiful. You tell the stories that we go out and tell the world. You keep our students supported in so many untold ways. Without you, none of this would happen.”

Lastly, he thanked the students for their continued vigilance, support, and energy.

“Students, you remind us of why we show up. You remind us of why we do this work. You've made us better,” he said. I just can't thank you enough for all the formal and informal conversations I've had with you that have made me a better person and a better leader. I cannot wait to see what you all do next.”

"Without a doubt, the last six years have been the most profound and important time of my professional life,” he said.

Stritikus requested that people consider making a gift to the Skyhawk Emergency Grant which directly supports our students in need. The FLC Foundation will match each gift made in his honor, dollar-for-dollar.

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