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Outstanding Alumni Winner - 2007

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Alumnus award winner grew up with UW

by Steven L. Miller,
Senior Editor
Office of Communications and Technology

Tom Davidson

A trip to California as a young teacher was to pivot a Laramie native’s life and fling him from a Pinedale classroom to eventually be named one of the top 100 advertising sales representatives in the United States.

Tom Davidson, a College of Agriculture Outstanding Alumnus award recipient this year, says as a young man he never could have imagined the life he and his wife, Ann, of Rock Springs, have had.

“When in Pinedale teaching school, if someone would have walked up to me and told me someday I would be the Midwest manager of Good Housekeeping magazine in Chicago, you would imagine what my thoughts would have been,” says Davidson, who retired in 2001.

He graduated from UW with a bachelor’s degree in science & agricultural education in 1961, attending on a four-year track scholarship and lettering in basketball as a freshman.

Graduation didn’t end his involvement with UW. He is:

  • A current member of the College of Agriculture Dean’s Advisory Board
  • A current Ag Scholarship donor
  • A member of the College of Business Advisory Council
  • A Former member of UWyo magazine advisory board
  • A former member of the UW Foundation Board
  • A former member of the Alumni Association Board
  • An emeritus former member of the UW Art Museum National Advisory Board

Davidson, who lives in Wisconsin, is a former student of Professor Emeritus Connie Kercher in the Department of Animal Science, who nominated him for the alumnus honor. Kercher has known Davidson’s entire family. “His dad was our shepherd at the UW farm,” notes Kercher. “I knew his mother, and I had his older brother in class. Tom is certainly deserving of recognition for his loyal and longtime support for the college.”

University involvement after graduation runs the gamut from those who don’t care to someone like Davidson, says Kercher. “I’m pleased to know him and his wife and support Tom for this award,” he says.

Davidson is enthusiastic about the College of Agriculture’s outpouring of information to residents. “The amount of information the college and extension service is providing to help producers in the state is phenomenal,” he says. “That excites me.”

He pointed out Barnyards & Backyards magazine that is produced to assist small-acreage owners in the state, and Reflections magazine, which showcases research throughout the college.

Davidson grew up with UW. His father, Jim, was shepherd for 36 years at the old university Stock Farm, which at that time was at the territorial prison.

“Butch Cassidy was at the prison two years, and they have a picture of him there. I was there 18 and don’t have one,” Davidson quips.

He doesn’t make light of the alumnus award. “My father being with the university as long as he was, my parents would really be proud of me,” he says. “I’m honored. I think they would be proud of what is taking place.”

The Davidsons created the James M. and Blanche Davidson Scholarship in his parents’ honor.

Davidson’s life was to take a life-changing curve while teaching at Pinedale. As a young teacher, Davidson traveled to Bakersfield, California, to see a dairy farm at a local FFA chapter. While there, he observed a California FFA magazine that encouraged him to start a similar magazine in Wyoming. “That’s how I got into advertising,” he says.

After two years, he got a call from the National FFA headquarters in Washington, D.C., asking if he would consider working in its advertising department. “The money was ‘wow, let’s do this. We can  always come back,’ ” he recalls. “That led to everything else that has happened to me.”

He was approached a year to the date after his start at National FFA by Swift and Co. to join its public relations arm. Within eight months, the company was restructured and his job was eliminated. He decided to return to advertising and joined Progressive Farmer and Southern Living magazines.

He would become an advertising sales representative for Successful Farming and Better Homes & Gardens magazines, and later Midwest manager for Good Housekeeping magazine. Davidson doesn’t take credit for his success and noted several people who have helped him.

His farm background and time at UW was to serve him well. “It allowed me to accomplish what happened in my advertising career,” he says. “I knew enough about agriculture that, when calling on companies like Deere and Co., they knew I had an agriculture background. A lot of times we didn’t talk advertising, but agriculture. In some cases, I was advising some of the people I was calling on. It gave me confidence to talk to anyone about agriculture.”

Jack Allen of Laramie, who wrote a letter of support for Davidson’s nomination, believes his friend’s personal characteristics have contributed to his success. “Tom is sincere, honest, focused, persistent, personable, and reasonable,” notes Allen, who taught physical education at Pinedale when Davidson was teaching agriculture. “He is a people person who listens to others and works well in any setting. He is respectful of others and has a great sense of humor.”

Ann says her husband is a born salesman, even selling pots and pans to help get through college. “He’s persistent,” Ann says. “To his advantage and disadvantage, he personalizes his goals. They don’t just become a goal for the college, but become his goals. He doesn’t like no. And he’s definitely a people person. It has been a great ride for us.”

He’s helped UW in many ways. As a young boy feeding stock at the UW farm, Davidson recalls one morning climbing atop the Cowboy Joe mascot pony and being tossed straight in the air.

As an adult, Davidson learned the College of Agriculture was solely responsible for the university mascot. Upon learning the University of Illinois and Notre Dame mascots received full-ride scholarships, “I thought, ‘why not get a $500 scholarship each for the handlers and also offset the care of the pony and apparel for handlers?’ I contacted alumni and had no problem at all. We are in the fourth year of handling this program through the Cowboy Joe Club. This year, Cowboy fans are also buying a trailer for the mascot, which will have the names of the handlers on it plus those promoting the pony.”

Allen says Davidson has continued loyalty and concern for the success and growth of the university in the athletic and academic areas. “He is a major financial contributor to the university,” notes Allen. “No time of year is too inconvenient for Tom to come to Laramie for meetings, sports events, or to accompany his wife, who is president of the UW Art Museum National Advisory Board.”

Notes Allen, “He has actively stayed in touch with his many university friends throughout the years. He loves the University of Wyoming.”

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