In memory: Thomas M. Sutherland

Tom Sutherland died Friday evening, July 22, at home and with family.

Jean and Tom Sutherland speak as Tom Sutherland is welcomed home to Fort Collins by more than 10,000 people in the packed Colorado State University Moby Arena, December 5, 1991 after Sutherland was released after 6 and a half years of captivity in Lebanon. Standing on the stage with Sutherland are Colorado Governor Roy Romer, Colorado State University President Albert C. Yates Sutherlands wife Joan and his daughters Joan and Kit.
Jean and Tom Sutherland speak as Tom Sutherland is welcomed home to Fort Collins December 5, 1991.

Tom was born May 3, 1931, to William Grainger and Helen McNee Sutherland, and was brought up on the family dairy farm near Grangemouth and Falkirk, Scotland, milking cows and working the farm with his five brothers and sisters. School was first in the village of Skinflats and then in Grangemouth and Falkirk where he graduated from high school in 1949. His love throughout was soccer, and he was picked first for the Scottish Youth team, then for the Scottish Youth International team, and in his first year of university at Glasgow University, for the Glasgow Rangers, where he played for one year before he was let go, “the saddest day of my life.” He turned to his studies, however, and graduated in agriculture from Glasgow University in 1953.

Following a post-graduate year in Reading, England, in animal breeding, Tom then followed a dream to Iowa State University where he did Master’s and Ph.D. degrees under Dr. Jay Lush, informally known as “The Father of Animal Breeding.” It was at Iowa State that he met and married Jean Murray in 1956 and from there came to Colorado State University at the invitation of Dr. Howard Stonaker in 1958 to teach animal breeding, genetics and statistics in the Department of Animal Science. It was in Fort Collins and at CSU that he built his teaching career and lived his life with Jean and their three daughters. Together they spent a sabbatical year in France in 1966-67 near Versailles at the Centre Nationale de Recherche Zootechnique, making many lifelong friends. A two-year secondment to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, followed from 1976-78 as a member of the staff of the International Livestock Center for Africa guiding junior African scientists in their studies to improve livestock production in their home countries. Tom felt especially honored to work with these students and travel to their countries and be involved in trying to better animal production and lives there.

His next overseas involvement came in 1981 when he was offered the post of Dean of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the American University of Beirut in Beirut, Lebanon. Because of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the year following he did not join the faculty until 1983 when there was hope of peace finally and a chance for the university to flourish again. The chance was not allowed to develop then and civil war with outside participation was the norm. With the tragic assassination of President Malcolm Kerr in January of 1984, Tom and Jean needed to make their life’s decision to leave or stay. They stayed and Tom spent the next year and a half guiding his faculty and students as he could under wartime conditions until he was abducted in June, 1985, and retained by a group called Islamic Jihad for six and a half years in various parts of Lebanon and with a number of hostages, mostly American and British. Released in November 1991, he returned to Fort Collins to a most overwhelming welcome. For the next 25 years until his death, he and Jean traveled and spoke of experiences, wrote their book, entitled At Your Own Risk, recounting those years, enjoyed their home and family, and received an award from a suit against Iran for Tom’s years in captivity. From this, they were able to enjoy giving philanthropic return to the community of CSU and Fort Collins. Tom was always most humble and thankful to his extended community there and in Iowa, Scotland, and France. He and Jean celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June of this year.

Surviving Tom are his wife, Jean; his daughters, Ann (Ray Keller) of Charlottesville, Virginia; Kit (Scott Kintz) of Fort Collins; Joan (Mike Sears) of Boring, Oregon; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A celebration of Tom’s life will be held at 2 p.m. in the CSU Lory Student Center Ballroom on August 20, in the best Scottish tradition. It will not only celebrate Tom’s life but will be a thanks to his extended community.

Send condolences to the family

Obituaries compiled by CSU Public Relations Staff