Life after Retirement
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
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After nine years at Oklahoma State University serving as the vice president and dean of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Dr. Thomas G. Coon decided the time had come to complete his career with the Cowboy family at a place he will always call home.
Coon started his academic career teaching at Luther College in 1980 and the University of Missouri in 1983. Later, he spent 25 years at Michigan State University as a professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and served as director of MSU Extension for nine years.
When he decided to move to OSU, Coon knew he had an opportunity to make an impact and embrace a new challenge, he said.
“I had to learn a lot, and that was my favorite part about my position here at Oklahoma State,” Coon said. “My job is to be a story accumulator — learn those stories and share them with others who want to learn more about the division and be supportive.”
OSU is a special place, Coon said. People need to realize and understand how unique the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is, he added.
“The sense of community and the sense of common purpose capture so much of what this division is about,” Coon said. “That is something I will miss the most.”
After retiring, Coon is excited to spend time with family, he said.
“My wife, Rhonda, and I are fortunate and blessed with four healthy grandsons as well as our sons and their wives,” Coon said. “We want to be involved in their lives as much as possible, and that is really a key motivator for me.”
The pair is happy for this new chapter in life, Rhonda Coon said.
“I’m happy for Tom because he has always been one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known,” she said. “He’s worked hard his whole life — he earned this.”
In the eyes of his wife, the way Thomas Coon looks at the value of every person is what made him a great dean. He is compassionate and empathetic, Rhonda Coon said, and those two traits helped in every position of his career.
“He’s a very successful administrator — he’s also an incredible husband and father,” she said.
Recreational fishing and contributing to managing fish populations as well as preserving natural resources have always interested Thomas Coon, and he looks forward to pursuing more aquatic interests, he said.
“I’ve told people there are fish I’ve been neglecting for too long,” Thomas Coon said with a smile. “I look forward to getting back into my fisheries work.”
The couple has created a bucket list of adventures on which their top items are an Alaskan cruise and trips back to the Caribbean, Rhonda Coon said.
“We went to the Caribbean for our honeymoon, and we’ve been going back ever since,” she said. “That’s our place — we will continue to travel there, but we are interested in visiting more places in the U.S.”
Following the dean’s retirement, the Coons plan to move to Portage, Michigan, where their older son, Robbie, lives.
“It has been incredible watching my parents integrate themselves into Stillwater and the OSU community,” Robbie Coon said, “although my dad earned this moment to unwind and take his foot off the gas.”
The Coons bought a cottage on the lake next to Robbie Coon’s cottage where they will spend time in the summer as a family.
Robbie Coon and his wife, Emily, look forward to “Nonna and Grandpa” being a part of their daily lives, he said.
“We all enjoy spending time outside,” Robbie Coon said. “I know there will be plenty days spent fishing, kayaking and cross-country skiing.”
As the Coons’ grandsons grow older, it will be fun to have their grandpa around to watch soccer games, band practices or other activities the boys will be involved in, Robbie Coon said.
Still, the Coons are already starting to plan days when they will travel back to Stillwater, Rhonda Coon said.
“We met so many amazing friends who feel like family out here,” she said. “We can’t wait to be back for the dedication of the New Frontiers building in 2024.”
Thomas Coon values the mission of the Ferguson family, he said. People express that mission at OSU and continue to motivate others around to bring greatness, he added.
“The support I’ve had here is invaluable compared to other institutions,” he said. “I want people to know to never take this unique sense of community for granted.”
Story By: Emma Welch | Cowboy Journal