Case impact is wonderful to see
One day about two years ago, I called Tom Kicher’s mobile phone and reached him in his car. I wanted to talk with him about a story he was writing for Case Alumnus. He said he was on his way to work and would call me back.
Work? I did some quick mental arithmetic. I guessed he was in his early 80s. I knew he had retired from the faculty years ago (in 2005).
“I thought you were retired?” I said.
“Retired, hah!” he replied. “I should try that some time.”
Tom had the joy of working alongside his son, Paul ’91, right up until recent times at their engineering consulting firm in Mentor. He worked a lot of places, because he helped a lot of people.
Steve Zinram, the executive director of the Case Alumni Association, told me he called Tom at least once a month for 10 years. He said the former dean, who arrived on campus a freshman in 1955, could recall faculty who began teaching at Case in the 1890s.
Tom’s breadth of knowledge of Case and its people was astonishing. At the time of his death on Feb. 19 at age 84, he was helping the Kelvin Smith Library create a digital history of the school. He was also working for me, as a prolific writer and researcher whom I often tried to slow down.
Tom’s cover story on Leonard Case Jr., “The Case Legacy,” was easily our most popular story of 2019. (I asked for 3,000 words — he gave me 13,000). I’m more impressed with his later profile of Harry Fielding Reid, an early Case professor who led students on an expedition to the Alaskan frontier in 1890. The story is a marvel, if only for its description of how the team measured the movement of glaciers — colossal, uncharted glaciers — using standard surveying techniques they learned on campus.
Tom’s appetite for context and history was boundless. He was the master of the trenchant observation and the clever joke. I did not know him as a professor, but so many alumni have written to share memories, I feel I’m starting to.
No one gets a resource like Tom Kicher. Case did, for better than 65 years.
Robert L. Smith