On Friday, November 17th, Mr. Ossman called himself the "luckiest man alive" in gratitude to a group of more than 150 alumni, faculty and staff that gathered in his honor at the retirement 'tailgate' celebration held in the Evan R. West Field House. Throughout the evening, students and colleagues shared stories of Tom's far-reaching influence and impact including Associate Head of School Mark McLaughlin.
"Tom's humility aside, it was the work he did each day with those students -- and the hundreds of others who preceded them -- that helped them get ready in a way that reflected the fundamental core of this place -- the connection between teacher and student -- and did so without flamboyance, without flash, without fanfare – and with the steadfastness, the loyalty, the dedication, and consistency that reflect his character. And it is those qualities that have caused him to stand out as a truly great and gifted teacher, in a place that has been full of them."
Having shared an office with Mr. Ossman for more than 40-years, PCD Physics Teacher Carol Ann Tripp presented a "recommendation letter" for Ossman's next educational adventure at the "Institute for Advanced Experience."
"He works with initiative and discipline, not to draw attention and praise but just because he sees it as the right thing to do. Whether giving extra help after school, working on his daily quiz solutions during weekends and vacations, even helping my granddaughter prepare for high school calculus in her sophomore summer, Tom always has time to help. And he gives it so freely," she said.
Many past students paid tribute to Mr. Ossman during the celebration but Meredith Hughes '01, credits him with her success at Yale University and believes she's formed her own teaching style today as an astronomy professor at Wesleyan University from his influence.
"When I arrived at Yale and enrolled in my first multivariable calculus class, I had the stereotypical terrible teacher...Her lectures were poorly organized and despite my efforts to follow them I was lost in every class and got a D on the first midterm," said Hughes. "...By the end of the semester, my grade was back up to an A, and it wasn't because I had a great professor at Yale — it was because Mr. Ossman had taught me how to teach myself math. I've always been able to fall back on that ability since then, and it has formed one of the pillars of my ability to do research at the forefront of astrophysics and figure out new things about the universe that nobody has ever thought about before."
Ossman performed two songs including "You Make Me Feel So Young" by Frank Sinatra to conclude the evening and was celebrated with a standing ovation. PCD also featured a tribute video during the dinner where other past students credit him for "shaping the person I am today" and for instilling indispensable skills and character with impact well beyond the high school years. "It wasn't until later in life that I realized the gravity of his lessons," said Drew Reilly '86.
Read the full remarks from the dinner here: