Department of Communications unveils memorial bench to honor beloved professor
Students, faculty, friends and alumni gathered at a dedication ceremony for a bench that recognizes the late Professor Tom Poe’s contributions to the university, the communication studies department and the study of film. Poe died in 2016 and his colleagues led the initiative to honor him with a memorial bench just outside the door of Haag Hall.
“Tom was a great mentor and colleague,” said Wayne Vaught, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I knew him more than 20 years, but he was a fixture much longer than that. Tom wanted everyone to be successful. His first question was always, ‘How is this going to better the students?’”
Joan Dean, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of English, remembered that Poe’s classes were always full and that many students took as many of his classes as possible.
“Many people who took his classes would not have said they had a great interest in post-structuralist theory. But after watching ‘Pinocchio’ in his class, students had a clear understanding the complexities of Foucault.”
Angela Elam, director of New Letters on the Air, was a friend and colleague of Poe’s.
“Tom would lift you up, connect you and help your cause,” she said. “Even at the end it was his deathbed wish to get his nephew, Jonathan Salling’s, opera performed.”
“After I took my first class with him, I took all of his classes that I could,” said Asher Wilcox as he read the dedication of Poe’s bench. “I’m the Thomas Poe Scholarship recipient. It’s really helped me a lot.”
Poe was a tireless advocate for LGBTQIA rights. His bench bears his name and the inscription, “Love is always apropos,” from a poem by his nephew.
“I love the fact that the two benches for Carol Koehler and Tom Poe are directly across from each other,” Elam said. “They were great friends and colleagues–the heart and soul of the Communication Studies Department for years–and now, it feels like they’ll be in eternal conversation.”
Contributions to the G. Tom Poe Scholarship Fund for Outstanding Achievement in Film and Media Arts for undergraduate student majoring in communication studies with an emphasis in film and media arts or a minoring in film studies can be made by contacting Jason Elliott.