The Don Aldrich Award

Tom Roy - 1995

Tom Roy
Tom Roy

A combined community organizer, social worker, scholar and marathon runner, Tom Roy is one of Montana’s greatest interdisciplinary advocates. From an early age, he understood the power of community and relationships in shaping a person’s wellbeing, and his care for humanity is reflected throughout his life’s work.

Before Tom arrived in Montana, he was involved in progressive campaigns in the 60’s while living in Chicago. Tom and his wife Susan moved to Montana in 1970, bringing their experience with nonprofit groups, organizing and teaching. After spending some time in MSU’s Social Work Department, Tom took a position in UM’s SW program in Missoula, eventually becoming its chairperson in the early ‘80’s.

After serving as President of the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC), Tom joined UM’s Environmental Studies (EVST) program, becoming its program director for 22 years. In that time, he split his teaching between EVST and Social Work, focusing on effective management of citizen non-profit groups and relationships between socio-economic justice and environmental issues and shaping the environmental movement into a more inclusive one. He brought a greater emphasis on advocacy into a program that was initially heavy on sciences, building the interdisciplinary nature that is now EVST’s trademark.

Tom’s role as program director was critical when EVST was threatened by some program skeptics in and outside of the University. He and his students engaged with ranchers, breaking barriers and finding common ground between environmentalists and homesteaders that distinguished Montana as a hub for collaborative conservation. Through his fundraising expertise and capacity for building relationships, Tom successfully obtained funding from the Doris Duke Foundation of New York. The Foundation chose to fund what it considered to be the nation’s top five graduate programs in conservation/environment – placing UM’s EVST program in company with Duke, Michigan, Yale, and Wisconsin.

Because of student interest in environmental writing, Tom convinced UM to create a faculty line with that focus and recruited a donor to endow the position of Kittredge Visiting Environmental Writer. Alumni of EVST’s writing program have helped to shape and focus public discourse on conservation and sustainability issues.

Tom’s influence ranges far beyond his contributions to a renowned Environmental Studies program. He served three terms on the governor-appointed Environmental Quality Council and as president of MEIC. He and his wife Susan believed in the essential services group homes provided for children, and were past board members and chairs of Missoula’s Youth Homes – one of those homes is named in his honor. He also helped raise $4 million to build a new YMCA center in Missoula, earning an honorary membership with the organization, and is working on another multi-million dollar fundraising project. He continues his service as a volunteer at the local food bank and Great Burn Alliance.

Recognition of Tom’s work includes Conservation Roundtable’s Aldrich award, MEIC Conservationist of the Year, UM’s Robert T. Pantzer Presidential Humanitarian Award, and Sandy Sargent Stewardship Award.

Biography by Kalle Fox

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