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The Thunderbird legacy: Parker’s legacy remembered going into CNFR

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – “I remember going into Tom’s office every morning to drink coffee,” says Clay Smith, a former Casper College student. “Being around Tom was always great. We had lots of laughs and memories.”

Tom Parker, who passed away March 15, is fondly remebered by former student Clay Smith.

Students, faculty and community members surrounding Casper College all echoed Smith’s sentiments, using phrases like “honest,” “kind hearted” and “focused on students.”

Heading into the College National Finals Rodeo June  10-17, Parker’s leadership legacy are remembered.

Long career

Parker began teaching at Casper College in 1990, and he retired in 2013.

“Aside from teaching, he also coached full-time,” says Heath Hornecker, Casper College Agriculture Department Head. “Tom taught and coached for 23 years. He was a vital member of the ag department for more than two decades.”

For Parker, teaching was about student development and opportunities, continued Hornecker.

“Tom was really focused on student success, and he was really willing to work with students to make sure they succeeded,” Hornecker adds. “He expected students to be there but was willing to bend over backwards to help students out.”

“Tom was really student centered, and he tried hard to get students through school,” he says.

Smith started school at Casper College in the fall of 2007.

“I met Tom for the first time in the fall before to ask him if I could rodeo for Casper,” Smith comments. “I didn’t know if he knew me, but Tom said he had an eye out for me and he would love to have me, so I went to Casper.”


Smith notes that Parker was willing to do anything for his students.

“No matter what the circumstance – whether it was rodeo, school or personal – Tom was always there,” he comments. “Tom was always a phone call away, and that was really important for me.”

Even today, Smith says he still reached out to Parker up until his passing.

“I’d call him every time I went through Casper – which was pretty often – just to chat,” Smith says. “Tom always took the time to talk with me and ask how things were going.”

However, it was Parker’s devotion to providing opportunities for students to succeed that was really impactful for Smith, who comments, “The biggest impact Tom had on me was just giving anyone who wanted a shot the chance.”

Smith described Parker as honest and kind-hearted and says that Parker played a big role in encouraging him for his future.

“Tom taught me how to be a better person, both inside and out of the arena. He told me to always trust myself, and he said that to get the best, I had to be the best,” Smith continues.

“I always really liked that Tom never turned kids away from the rodeo arena,” he adds. “Even if he didn’t know what they could do, he always gave everyone a shot. The one thing I always admired about Tom is that he gave everyone a chance.”


In the rodeo program, Hornecker says Parker came in with big shoes to fill.

“Tom came in after Dale Stiles,” he comments. “I never knew the rodeo team before Tom, but I know that he was always willing to give kids a chance.”

While other coaches may not have offered all students the chance to compete, Parker was well known for offering everyone an opportunity.

“Rodeo teams were big at Casper College,” Hornecker says. “Tom wanted to give kids the chance to rodeo and go to school.”


As a co-worker, Hornecker notes that Parker always provided a level-headed perspective.

“He had advice if we asked, but he let us do our jobs if we didn’t ask,” Hornecker continues of Parker. “Tom was always willing to help us work through things or come up with new ideas.”

“Tom as always concerned about students, and he wanted to make sure students were taken care of,” Hornecker says. “He focused on all students – not only the ones who were academically inclined. Tom knew that some of the best students weren’t the ones who got straight A’s.”

“Tom was a great mentor,” Smith says. “He was always there and always happy to help.”

Hornecker comments, “Tom will most definitely be missed.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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