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ISSUE 116 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/18/2002

Students yield to driver

By Annie Rzepecki
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 18, 2002

Students, faculty, family and friends gathered in Buntrock Crossroads on Oct. 10 to honor Tom Pritchard, known by many as "Tom the Bus Driver," for his enduring service to St. Olaf College.

The program was also a welcome back for Pritchard, who suffered a heart attack last spring and was forced to take a leave of absence from driving the "Love Bus."

Student Government Association President Brock Metzger made the opening remarks. "Tom is much more than a bus driver – he is a friend to all who ride his Love Bus," he said. Metzger then introduced President Christopher Thomforde, who presented Pritchard with a plaque.

Engraved on the plaque were the words "distinguished, loyal and well-humored service." Thomforde further honored Pritchard by saying that he embodied the word "vocation," which means finding out what one’s gifts are and using them to make someone else’s life better.

"You always have a wonderful smile and a good hand wave for me," Thomforde told Pritchard.

Metzger then introduced Dean of Students Greg Kneser, who explained that the administration had intended to present Pritchard with the plaque last spring, but ironically the plaque arrived on the day of Pritchard’s heart attack.

Kneser went on to recognize Pritchard’s large family that was in attendance. "There are like 100 Pritchards here," Kneser said. He gave special recognition to Pritchard’s mother, as well as members of the Northfield hospital who cared for Pritchard during his stay. Only two percent of people survive attacks similar to Pritchard’s.

"There is not a better role model in the world. I have never met a more important person," Kneser said.

After Kneser spoke, Larry Benjamin, CEO of Benjamin Bus Inc. spoke. He described how hard it is for everyone to get going in the morning, but he said Pritchard would always come in and yell, "Good morning everybody!" Benjamin expressed his appreciation for Pritchard’s hard work and positive attitude.

After being presented with another gift from SGA, Pritchard articulated his great appreciation for the program. He explained that he started driving the bus about 10 years ago.

"I was at a point in my life where I needed this," Pritchard said. "You’ve been one of the brightest spots in my life. My intent is to come back and drive the bus again." Pritchard must receive approval from his doctors before he returns to work.

After thanking the St. Olaf community for the large card that he received in the hospital last spring, Pritchard led the crowd in a verse of "The Wheels on the Bus." Everyone sang along, including the people that were gathered on the stairs and looking over the railings in the upper levels of Buntrock.

"Up St. Olaf Avenue to the Land of Um Ya Ya’s!" Pritchard exclaimed. "God loves you, and so do I."

After the program, Metzger emphasized "how much the student body appreciates Pritchard," and that the reception was an inadequate gesture compared to how much Pritchard is appreciated.

Other students expressed similar feelings of gratitude.

"Tom is a special part of this community and I think that students are excited that he gets to have his own day," said Breanne Thornton ’04.

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