September 15, 2022

Here’s to Tom

No one is more committed to Earlham’s success than our Board of Trustees. Tom Gottschalk’s ’64 “Epic Journey” with the Board began 50 years ago, first as member, then as its chair and then as an honorary lifetime member. He retired from the Board in June, and it’s important to share how his legacy encourages us forward.

Our Board members serve out of love and loyalty, but they are blinded by neither. They test and probe and deliberate—and the College is better for it. Tom has exemplified what it means to be on the Board, serving in a positive, thoughtful and clear-eyed way. He has helped Earlham be the best version of itself and he has shown us all by his example—within and outside of the Board—what it means to live and act purposefully.

Outside of his work on the Board, he has held offices of esteem and he has used them for good. As general counsel for GM, in addition to his responsibilities for the company’s global legal affairs and public policy matters, he pressed for expanding opportunities within the legal profession for women and minorities. He was a leader in national efforts to encourage corporate counsel, as well as law firms, to take on pro bono work to represent those who could not afford attorneys. He also helped organize a pro bono program for attorneys in Detroit and, after his re-tirement from GM, led the formation of national pro bono program within his law firm. His Quaker principles have been evident throughout his career, and his life and work reflect the very best of what it means to be an Earlhamite.

We offer him our greatest thanks for his service. He has been a strong and steadfast voice reminding us of what we stand for and how we can live our values every day.


Tom Gottschalk ’64 (center) among fellow trustees in June. Gottschalk began his service on the Board in 1972.

Tributes to Earlham’s longest-serving trustee upon his retirement.

Tom’s service to Earlham has spanned 12 presidencies at Earlham: Landrum Bolling, Paul Lacey, Franklin Wallin, Bud Baldwin, Pete Leland ’38, Dick Wood, Gene Mills ’48, Doug Bennett, David Dawson, Alan Price ’88, Avis Stewart ’74, and Anne Houtman. Along the way, he has helped Earlham navigate a number of complex issues, and he and his wife Bobbi have consistently and generously provided financial sup-port for Earlham and its programs. It is hard to imagine a more faithful and generous service to Earlham.


Tom believes in Earlham and what it stands for, and in a sense, he took Earlham with him during his career. To corporate America, he spoke of compassion and respect for persons—very Earlham. He took an appreciation for how our differences make us stronger as a collective. He has taken that with him everywhere he’s gone. As a Board member, he was always open to and respectful of different opinions, but he was also OK being unpopular when it came to taking a position that he thought was in Earlham’s best interest. Tom had a way of staking out a thoughtful position and talking about it in a way that we could all appreciate. A good Board member always, always puts the long-term vision of the College first. He did that well, and it’s been an honor to work with him in support of the College.


Being able to look across the room in a Board meeting and know that Tom’s really paying attention was reassuring. He’s a very thoughtful listener and he’s challenging—in the best sense of the word. He has a way of being positive, always positive, but also realistic. I know that I am a better trustee for having him as a colleague. And I know that we are a better Board and College because of his contributions over the past half century.


Shaped by his decades of service, his leadership consistently reflected careful listening, insightful analysis, clear communication, unselfish commitment of time and ongoing respect for Earlham’s mission and values. His support was especially important to me through many helpful conversations during my term as Board Chair as the College faced several critical issues. It is certainly Earlham’s good fortune that Tom has been a part of its journey.


I have had the honor of working with Tom on the Earlham Board for about 18 years. Tom has given countless hours of his time and knowledge helping the College work through complex legal issues. He asks very thoughtful, probing questions which help the Board work through many challenges. He has a passion for the College and it is shown in so many ways. As Board chair for a number of years, I knew I could count on Tom for support and his help in asking the hard questions which would help the Board make decisions. Tom has given many years of service to the College and will be missed. He will not be there at every meeting, but he will not be forgotten.


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