In Memory

Tom Jackson

Our longtime colleague, Thomas S. Jackson, passed away in his sleep of heart disease on September 26, 2022.  It was just a week before his 83rd birthday.  A former college athlete and avid sports fan, Tom died shortly after watching his beloved Ohio State Buckeye football team vanquish the Wisconsin Badgers. 

Tom was born and grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio and never stopped rooting for his hometown’s iconic teams, the Indians, Browns and Cavs.  Tom did his undergraduate work at Colgate University where he earned a bachelor’s degree and was a member of the varsity basketball team.  Upon graduation the University of California, Los Angeles accepted him for its doctoral program, and he completed his Ph.D. in history.

In addition to a fascination for history, Tom enjoyed teaching, sports, the stock market, chess and, most of all, his University of Maryland overseas colleagues.  The affection was mutual.  Over the more than thirty years that he repeatedly returned to Asia or Europe, students prospered from his teaching while generations of faculty and staff learned program ropes from Tom’s unique observations and perspectives.  His willingness to take time to give caring advice was part and parcel of Tom’s outgoing personality along with a propensity to tease and be teased.  Everyone who knew him has a “Tom Jackson Story” to tell that rarely fails to generate appreciative laughter.

After teaching in the Asian Division 1971–78, the European Division 1984–85, 1993–98 and 2002–03, Tom finally retired to Venice, Florida where many colleagues continued to visit him.  In 2015, as serious health issues made living alone more difficult, Tom moved to live with his sister, Su Lee, in Friday Harbor, Washington, his final residence.

1961 Colgate University Yearbook
1961 Colgate University Yearbook

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10/11/22 01:43 PM #1    

Patrick Quinn

I have just sent an email to Tom to catch up with him after a hiatis of about a year only to discover his death.


I am saddened by this news of such a fellow Cleveland sports man and s fine professor and historian.


I will always rember sharing with him our trips to the 17th century battlefields of France in the rain.


I will also remember his kindness and sense of humor during our various wanderings throguout Mayland bases seemingly everwhere in Europe.


Sorry my email was too late to say all this  before the end: Maybe you can read it now!  Pat



10/11/22 06:24 PM #2    

Frank Concilus

Wish I had known Pat Quinn was in touch with Tom Jackson. In the late 70s, Tom played touch football with George Sydney, Jim Vickery, me, and other Marylanders. In the 80's, he was at Osan and a few of us had some good times there as well. The only other Colgate alumnus I've run into with Maryland, Tom was an interesting, knowledgeable and humorous guy. Rest in Peace, Tom.

10/12/22 11:54 AM #3    

Jack Calbert


Tom was highly intelligent and loved to tease colleagues.  He didn't understand he sometimes went too far and offended people.   Dan Curzon Brown described him as a "perfectly adjusted person."  I told Tom once, "nothing embarrases you," which he seemed to like.  Tom was at his best during his two years in the early 1980s with the European Division; he rented a house in a German village where he entertained Marylanders including me.  Later Tom visited  me in the U. S.  but wound up telling me not to bother visiting him in Venice, Florida.  For me Tom remains a puzzle.  Sincerely,  John Cabell Breckinridge (Jack) Calbert.

10/14/22 08:50 PM #4    

Ralph Millis

When I arrived at The University of Maryland Far East Division nearly forty-five years ago "there were giants in the earth in those days" and Tom Jackson was one of the last and most conspicuous.  These "giants" were the Asian Marylanders who had taught during the Vietnam war era, the ones who lived out of a ditty bag and a sackful of  class notes, who rode to classes on tanks, who lectured to "grunts" on anthropology in countries where there was no official U.S. presence, who were 'coptered out of country on the last flight from the Saigon embassy when it all fell apart. . . . And Tom was one of their dwindling number, each in some way touched by the fire of experiences that most of us "ink-stained-wretches" in academia can only vainly attempt to understand by trying to recall some book or essay we seem to remember. . . . 
    Perhaps the most famous story about Tom is apocryphal, at best delightfully embellished.  It seems that Tom and another adventurous Marylander were exploring one of the archipelagos of the south Pacific during a term break. The two - vigorous young men - had discovered a "primitive" tribal village and had made the acquaintance of two of the young ladies who resided there.  After a significant period and certain Margaret Mead-recognized activities carried out in the absence of a common language, misunderstandings were bound to occur. So, when Tom and his companion came to realize they were considered by the tribe to have entered into long-term, even permanent relationships with the hitherto compliant, yet now insistent young women, in their minds they faced a Hobson's choice. . . . And that explains the young Marylanders' sudden and soundless departure from the village under the cover of warm island darkness, pursued (at least in their own minds) by tribal elders and irate male relatives of the jilted young women. . . . 
    A great story, of course, so after I had known Tom for awhile I actually worked up the courage to ask him, legend that he was, over O'Club happy hour drinks if the story was true.  Leaning back in his chair, cradling his drink in both hands and smiling slightly, after a long pause Tom said . . . absolutely nothing.  Then he grinned like hell. . . . The old classic "neither confirm nor deny." 
    That was Tom.  As a previous "In Memory" entry noted, in some ways Tom was an enigma.  Yet as I knew him, Tom was not difficult to experience as a friend, a colleague.  Back in the mid-'sixties when I was an undergraduate in Mississippi the greatest compliment we could give a fellow was "He truly does not give a shit!"  This does not mean that person was an insensitive, evil boor.  Rather, he was an individual who knew who he was and was comfortable in his own skin; he was devoted to telling the truth as he found it and to hell with dissimulation, instead going full-Howard Cosell and "telling it like it is"; ultimately, he knew full well that mankind and society are fallen and imperfectible and that he must act accordingly. This was Tom, and this last characteristic, I think, explains his ascerbic cynicism which, obvious and startling as it often was, masked his capacity for genuine friendship despite his hard teasing and  painfully trenchant comments.  At any rate, Tom was a huge presence in both physical size and his unique appreciation of life.
    Thinking of Tom now, we have to recognize that he did not fit these times. Can one imagine Tom in front of a class at almost any university today? Those virtues and qualities which Tom possessed in abundance then are now scorned in horror by the academy, and unfortunately by much of contemporary America.  But not by his friends.
    Tom Jackson was the antithesis of "woke," and for that we celebrate his life and our knowing him.
    I just bought this round, Tom.

10/15/22 09:52 AM #5    

John Gibney

Tom and I shared a rented house in Spandamlem Germany in 1985, where I was a right out of school, first real job ever, lecturer.  He 'showed me the ropes' during my first two terms as we shared many fun experiences.  Some of the most memorable were shopping for European sports cars to ship back to the states, late night timber thiefing for fireplace wood (and getting caught by our landlord who also happend to be the local German police chief), driving south through what was then Yugoslovia to get to our next teaching stations in Greece, visits to Paris, visits to Amsterdam, accupunture to get rid of his smoking habit (it worked!), nights at the officer's club, and many more.  My favorite memories are often during our travels he'd suggest we stop and stroll over to a certain spot. He'd then ask "Well Gibbles (his fun intended nickname for me) do you know where you're standing?  I'd have no idea, and he then procede with a 20 minute lecture on a signifiant event that happened at that exact spot in history, exactly who was involved, where they stood, how long aog it happened, what it meant for future course of events, etc.  We'd both image we were back there in time, witnessing it first hand.  What a wonderful way to learn European history - and what a wonderful gift these lessons, and Tom, was.

10/16/22 11:55 AM #6    

Rod Romig

To tag onto Ralph Millis story about Tom in a tribal village, he told me what he remembered most was that the only light in the hut was the moon shining through the hole in the thatched roof and reflecting off the ring in the maiden's nose.

I can't think about Tom without thinking about Joe Sheffler. They were inseparable. TomandJoe was one word.

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