North Dakota students, teachers remember life of Tom Hesford
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A man who influenced thousands of students and hundreds of teachers in Bismarck has passed away.
Longtime teacher and school administrator Tom Hesford was laid to rest Friday in Bismarck. He died on March 31 at the age of 77.
Mr. Hesford not only taught a generation of students how to write, he was also a leader in his profession right up until his death.
Tom Hesford began his career teaching English in 1967 at Bismarck High School, and spent the next 24 years passing along his love for literature, writing, journalism and photography.
His students said he was one of those teachers you never forget.
“Tom Hesford was not only an extraordinary teacher, he was also an extraordinary administrator/the principal sets the tone. He changed this community and he changed not just his students, but generations of students,” said Rita Kelly, former teacher and administrator.
From teaching, Hesford transitioned to a different leadership role, spending 13 years, first as assistant principal at Century High School, and then as principal at Bismarck High.
As an administrator, he was known for his compassionate yet firm approach to discipline and his fair dealings with staff. His colleagues said he spent his entire career working to make the educational system better.
“Tom’s teaching was phenomenal. I was considered a very unusual engineer because I could actually write, and I do credit Tom Hesford for the beginning of that,” said Sue Peterson, former student.
Hesford remained active in education following his retirement from BHS, teaching English as an adjunct professor at Bismarck State College, and coming out of retirement to work as principal at St. Mary’s Grade School in Bismarck before suffering a stroke 12 years ago.
But even then, he stayed involved, most recently as chairman of the North Dakota Education Fact Finding Commission, helping to resolve impasses in state teacher contract negotiations.
Tom may be gone, but his legacy lives on in those he taught and worked with throughout his career. He had a genuine love for people, most especially his family and friends, and he changed countless lives.
May his memory be a blessing to all whose lives he impacted.
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