Sunday, September 13, 2009

Keeping Up With Tom Thornton (And Lending Him a Hand)

In May of 2007 I wrote about a Notre Dame student-athlete who had popped up in the news and who was a perfect example of why, even after a frustrating loss to Michigan on the football field, I am so proud to be a Domer. To briefly re-cap:

Who the heck is Tom Thornton? Tom Thornton is (was) a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame. Student. Athlete. Not an athlete masquerading as a student in order to barely maintain his eligibility. But a true student, working hard in the classroom (and outside the classroom), to get a world-class education as well as a degree. And a pretty good athlete on the side, elected as a co-captain of the baseball team by his teammates in his senior year and compiling a 7-3 record in 15 pitching starts his final season last Spring. Tom was drafted by the Detroit Tigers last June in the 21st round, and right now is working hard in the Can-Am league trying to make it to the Big Leagues.

So what has Tom Thornton been up to lately? Working on his slider, perhaps? Well, no. Tom just returned from Nairobi where he has been working on a research grant trying to learn more about the earliest use of fire by man, over a million years ago. Putting his anthropology degree to work.

Last week I received an e-mail from Tom, who had learned of my blog post from a friend of his some time ago. He is still pursuing his two passions, baseball and anthropology, and he is asking for a little help. Here's what he is up to, in his own words:

Let me first give you a brief summary of where I am and what I've been working on.

After continuing my senior thesis at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi in the fall of 2006 I have continued to play baseball professionally every spring and summer since. I grew up south of Boston, MA and have spent much of the winter training and working in Chicago. I also had such a phenomenal learning and cultural experience in East Africa that I wanted to find a way to continue doing research each fall to learn more in the field and prepare for an eventual Ph.D. program after baseball.

In the fall of 2007 I worked on a project looking at Neanderthal tool technology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. This past fall my interests shifted and I worked with a medical anthropologist in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh looking at the correlation between Buddhist philosophy and sports psychology in regard to the way the athlete creates meaning in the competitive environment.

After working for the past eight months I finally found a professor at Stellenbosch University, near Cape Town, South Africa only about three weeks ago to do a semester long project in the anthropology of religion. First and foremost, I'm thrilled to get the opportunity in the area that I will be pursuing for my Ph.D. however, because it took so long to find the professor, it has put me in a serious time crunch to fund the necessary 8000 dollars to do a nearly three month project project. I'm looking to lock down significant funds within a week so that I can get arrangements set up in South Africa and commit to the offer.

I've been able to get a thousand dollars from a foundation in Evansville, IN which is a fantastic start. Here is the other side and just as important. I would LOVE the opportunity to give something back. To work with an alumni club, give a talk, seminar, work with students or student-athletes would be a great opportunity. I've done a lot of work with my own public school system in Middleboro, MA about everything from goal-setting to a talk on Biblical history in relation to the Israel/Palestine conflict after spending over two months in the Middle East.

So my question is, would you be willing to work with me in arranging some way to give back in return for partial funding? I read on your blog that you are trying to raise a family with young kids so I don't know what options you might have. However, either way would you know of any individual or organization that I might ask or might be willing to work with me on this project? Right now, because of the time crunch, I'm trying to see the whole board (as we say in chess) and ask, ask, ask for ideas and support.

I believe in this project and I know I can offer something very worthy in return. I am extremely passionate about education and raising the level of dialogue in the community. I would really enjoy the opportunity to work with you or someone you know and find a creative solution. I'm going to attach my research and funding proposal if you would like a more specific idea of what exactly I am trying to do. I had tailored it toward several alumni clubs that I am trying to work through as well as many fronts at ND but it will give you a clearer picture of what my project is about.

I really appreciate any ideas or support you might be able to lend. Feel free to call my cell anytime. [cell phone number deleted] I'm in Fargo, ND right now competing for a Northern League championship while playing for the Gary, IN Southshore Railcats. So if I don't pick up I'm probably at the stadium but I'll call you right back asap. Regardless, and in all seriousness, call me sometime anyway, as I pass through CA a fair amount and I might be [there] after the new year before the baseball season begins. If I get south it would be nice to briefly meet up with a fellow alumni.

Thanks a lot for your help and have a terrific day,

Best wishes and regards,


I wrote Tom back with some ideas, and I offered to share his story here at OC Domer in the hopes that someone out there might be willing and able to help him out. If you can offer Tom some help toward reaching his goals, or if you have some ideas on where else he might turn for assistance and support, please e-mail him directly at

Go Irish!


OC Domer said...

Dear Dan - Why do you keep posting obnoxious spam on my blog that has no relation to the story you are commenting on? Maybe you could take a hint that I don't think your comments are appropriate, and then behave like an adult and quit posting unwanted remarks on someone else's blog. Maybe start your own Michigan blog and post there all day long?

Anonymous said...

Hey oc. Good to see a fellow alum doing his part. keep up the good work.