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ISSUE 115 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/19/2002

Pritchard undergoes emergency operation

By Julie Gunderson
News Editor

Friday, April 19, 2002

Tom Pritchard, known by most in the St. Olaf community as "Tom the Bus Driver," was airlifted to Regions Hospital in St. Paul on the evening of April 15. Pritchard underwent emergency heart surgery April 16.

Pritchard remains in intensive care at Regions. The school has received no updated information on Pritchard’s condition, but the administration, faculty, staff and students remain hopeful that Pritchard will be released from the hospital sometime in the next few weeks.

"I don’t think that it can be overstated on what a great job the medical staff at Northfield Hospital did," Greg Kneser, dean of student life, said. "They were able to stabilize him so he could be transported up to St. Paul."

The impact that Pritchard has had on the St. Olaf and Northfield communities cannot be minimized.

"I always look forward to talking with Tom when I ride the bus into town," Ashley Wallace ’05 said. "Being far from home and without a car it’s nice to have that friendly smile and someone to help you find your way around."

Kneser noted that Pritchard is an important and well-known figure in his church community and in the entire Northfield community.

In addition to his St. Olaf route Pritchard drives a kindergarten route in the mornings.

"I hear these five and six year old kids as they are getting off the bus saying ‘bye, Tom’ just like students here at St. Olaf," Kneser said. "It’s a neat thing to hear."

Students were startled to hear of Pritchard’s medical condition.

"It was so sad to hear of this happening to him," Emily Olsen ‘05 said. "I just rode the bus last week and he was his normal smiling self and then I get an e-mail saying he is in intensive care."

Before becoming employed at Benjamin Bus and taking over as the permanent inter-campus shuttle driver, Tom was downsized from his position at Control Data corporation.

Along with students, Pritchard also has a strong relationship with the faculty and staff.

"He is one of my heroes and has been for some time, simply for the way he’s lived his life," Pete Sandberg, director of Facilities, wrote in an e-mail to the faculty.

Sandberg also pointed out the variety of roles that Pritchard plays for students and faculty.

"[Tom] probably has a direct impact on more students at St. Olaf and Carleton than any other one of us," Sandberg wrote. "At different times Tom is a friend, counselor, surrogate parent, teacher, and most certainly, role model."

Students wanting to express their wishes for Pritchard’s recovery can sign the card located in the Buntrock Crossroads. The card will be given to Pritchard’s wife, to pass along the thoughts and wishes of the St. Olaf community to Pritchard and his family.

Pritchard is not allowed visitors or flowers in the intensive care unit.

The school doesn’t know how long it may be before Pritchard can return to driving the inter-campus shuttle, but the school does plan to have a special reception for him.

"Tom Pritchard Day" will be held when Pritchard is released from the hospital and able to return to Northfield.

"Since it may not be until next fall when Tom is able to return, we want to give our graduating seniors who have known Tom for four years a chance to say good-bye," Kneser said.

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