Thom Magdaleno passed away Oct. 10, 2008, in Fort Worth, Texas. His ex-girlfriend called and left me a message while I was out of town. I was shocked to get the message, not only because he had died, but because I had not seen or talked to Thom in 20 years. It was not for lack of effort. He would not take my phone calls or respond to letters. I finally gave up, wondering just what the heck I had done to make him mad. In talking to other alumni over the years, I realized it was not just me. To my knowledge, he refused to have anything to do with anybody. We were roommates/housemates for three years at Amherst, and it felt like an old friend had died. Thom was a fun-loving person who was always armed with a big smile. His mind was one of the sharpest I knew at Amherst. He was very adept at getting things done, especially when a bureaucracy was involved. He was raised by his grandmother, who was a truly great lady. Growing up in Watts in Los Angeles was not the best environment for success, but he persevered and overcame all of its obstacles. What happened after Amherst I learned from his ex-girlfriend and his obituary. She said Thom talked a lot about Amherst, and the friends he had there. She found my phone number through the Internet and called me when he died.
Thom received a grant from North Texas State Univ. in Denton to teach Spanish and work on his masters. He never graduated and took numerous jobs after that, primarily teaching English as a second language. He taught for the Fort Worth I.S.D., Catholic Charities and several private companies. He also did some archival work for the Bass Brothers in Fort Worth. In typical Thom fashion, he was promoted to supervisor of the project but declined the position, when they insisted he wear a tie. Ever the rebel, he refused to join the Establishment. At some point, he was the head cook at a Mexican restaurant. Cooking and eating always were two of his favorite things. Unfortunately, over the years he never found his niche, and it ate away at him. I learned that he felt like he was a failure, which was one of the reasons he did not want to speak to anyone from Amherst. His lifestyle was far from healthy, and it eventually killed him. In a lot of ways, he was a victim of his early success in life. Those who knew him missed him when he was alive. Now that he has died, we will miss him even more. Thom was a great guy. Just wish he would have picked up the phone.
—Rick Wourms ’74