As I sat down to prepare this speech to recognize and congratulate Tom Barr for receiving the All Together One Award, I found myself at a loss for what to write.  What could I possibly say about Tom, that would begin to capture the personality and spirit of the man who so many people think so much of?  I typed his name into Google in an effort to find out as much as I could about him.  Well, that didn’t give me the leads I was looking for.  I read, and re-read, the nomination letters we had received multiple times, in an effort to gain an understanding of Tom, his spirit, and his personality.

You see, Tom is the Housekeeping Team Lead in Moody Hall, as well as other buildings.  He is someone who has been described as a “warm sunny presence in [Moody]” who “greets everyone with a smile, helps visitors find meeting rooms and restrooms.”  He is a bright ray of light in Frye, Maury, Moody Halls and Varner House, among other buildings, and his attitude truly embodies the spirit of JMU.  He has an infectious smile that brightens everyone’s spirits when he walks into a room.  One of his nominators, Kristi McDonnell wrote, “his jovial spirit makes me look forward to coming to work every day.”  She transferred to another department on campus and said there’s nothing she misses more than interacting with Tom on a daily basis.

Tom is a people person, who knows no stranger.  He always takes the time to ask how you’re doing, and is quick to provide a listening ear or an encouraging word when it’s needed.  I’ve heard that Tom noticed a World War II uniform in Chris Orem’s office, belonging to his late grandfather.  Tom, a former US Marine, will often salute the “cover” showing his respect and honor.  This is just one of the many ways Tom has chosen to care, and in the words of Andy Grammer, “give love to all [his] people.”

Tom has worked in Housekeeping at JMU for 27 years, and after meeting Tom, it is evident that working in Housekeeping is more than just a job for him.  Each of the buildings Tom is responsible for are like his home, and you feel like you are his house guest.  He consistently goes the extra mile for those around him.  It has been said that, “he is, without a doubt, the most delightful, hard-working employee [people] have had the pleasure to meet.  He is unfailingly courteous and regularly stops in to see if [anything is needed in the offices of Moody Hall].  In the summer, when the weather is abominably hot and humid, he comes in and turns on [their] air conditioners before [they arrive].”  He will even water office plants when people are on vacation.  

The first words that come to mind when I think about Tom are incredibly caring and humble.  I first met Tom when I “tapped” him for the All Together One Award.  He was shocked that he was receiving this Award and was insistent that this award was for important people, and he wasn’t important.  But that simply is not the case, Tom is important and does make a difference in the lives of those around him every single day.  Dave Chase put it perfectly as we were waiting to surprise Tom, “this award provides us an opportunity to recognize and celebrate those who lead from outside of positions of leadership.”  I’d like to leave you with this.  It has been said that “too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  Tom, you have touched the lives of many with your infectious spirit, and caring attitude.  You embody the spirit of James Madison University and the All Together One Award.  I know, that despite the fact that our interactions have been brief, my life has been touched by you.  This is why Tom Barr is so deserving of this award.  Congratulations Tom! Would you please come forward, to receive your pin and certificate.

Written by: Danielle Early

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