Retiring Ag Professor Presents ‘Final Lecture’

May 4, 2019

Tom Stilwell Lauded as Alumni Return to Campus

While Dr. Tom Stilwell reminisced and joked about his 18-year career on Wilmington College’s agriculture faculty, perhaps the most meaningful moments of the retiring professor’s “Final Lecture” Saturday morning (May 4) came from his former students and colleagues.

PICTURED: Dr. Tom Stilwell, with favorite bamboo pointing stick in hand, presents his “Final Lecture.” 

A crowd of 75 alumni, current students and faculty/staff members assembled to hear the associate professor of agriculture’s parting words and wish him well upon his most recent retirement.

Yes, most recent. In 2001, he joined the agriculture faculty after retiring from a career as an agronomist in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Intending to be a short-timer at WC, he quickly became an integral part of a growing Agriculture Department, which several years ago became the College’s largest academic area.

Dr. Donald Chafin, emeritus professor of agriculture, said Stilwell epitomizes WC’s hallmark for hands-on learning as he regularly took his students beyond textbook assignments and the physical classroom.

“You took them to soil pits, they collected weeds from everywhere, got sunburnt — they were outside learning in the fields, kicking dirt clods,” Chafin said, adding that Stilwell regularly accompanied students on study tours in Europe, central America and the United States.

“Those skills and abilities that Tom has passed on to you are not being taught at other schools,” he added. “Our alumni have been incredibly successful.”

Indeed, as several dozen introduced themselves and described their stations in life, it was obvious that Stilwell’s former students were well prepared upon leaving WC to excel in agriculture and other careers.

Stilwell said his retirement will be anything but retiring, as he plans to organize for presentation some 3,000 photographs he’s taken from around the world, while he and his wife, Norma, may add to those photos as they continue on international excursions.

Also there’s grass to mow and 60 fruit trees to care for, and he looks forward to finally working with the wood he brought home years ago from Cameroon. Oh yeh, he’s actually still in higher education. Stilwell will teach the World Food course offered in the spring semester at Wilmington College — until he retires again.