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Trees of Honor 2015: Gene Thomlinson

Published on Sep 2, 2015 by Paul K. Logsdon

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Evangel University Alumni Association will honor W.E. “Gene” Thomlinson, retired director of campus security/public safety, on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.

The Trees of Honor ceremony will be held at 11 a.m., during the Homecoming Celebration Luncheon in the University Plaza Convention Center.

He will be recognized along with two other retired members of the Evangel family.

Thomlinson started as Evangel’s first full-time director of campus security in 1969. During his 44 years of service, he developed and refined a professional department that had 14 full-time and three part-time employees when he retired at the end of 2013.

“Always eager to assist or just to listen to a student ponder the future, he never turned anyone away — and when needed, he would share a story or a prayer,” remembers Patti McDaniel, who as a student saw Thomlinson and his wife Judy as role models. She later served more than 25 years as a member of the Illinois State Police.

“Gene Tomlinson gave of himself in his work, and that desire to be the best was the reason the security department excelled,” said McDaniel.

Trees of Honor

The Trees of Honor project began as an idea formed by a small group of graduates from the early 1960s and took root following Springfield’s great ice storm of 2007. The idea was to help replace lost trees and restore the natural beauty of the campus.

Trees have been planted on Evangel’s campus in acknowledgement of the legacy of service each of the recipients has provided to the university. An engraved bronze plaque is placed at the base of each tree as a permanent tribute to the person being honored.

Professional development

When he moved to Springfield in 1969, his WWII-era barracks apartment doubled as the campus security office. McDaniel remembers a little one-room office, with a Mayberry front porch, located on the back side of campus.

Before he arrived, campus security had consisted of two “work study” students who patrolled the campus at night to make sure the doors were locked properly.

Since then, the security department has grown into a professionally trained Department of Public Safety.

“Chief Thomlinson developed tremendous professionalization in the ranks of the Security Department, and he utilized technology to make the campus safer,” said Dr. David Bundrick, who served as vice-president for student development over Thomlinson for 15 years.

Thomlinson outfitted Evangel with electronic security access systems, CCTV surveillance with 100 cameras blanketing the campus, and enhanced campus communication systems for emergency response.

“I am impressed with the technology and the investment made to protect the campus community,” said Roger Moore when he arrived from the Springfield Police Department in 2014 to replace Thomlinson as director of public safety. “Evangel has certainly done a good job in this area.”

In addition to his duties at Evangel, Chief served 38 years with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and was captain of the department’s reserve unit.

In 1994 the Evangel University Alumni Association recognized Thomlinson’s outstanding service with the Distinguished Service Award.

Gene and his wife, Judy, had already been married three years when they moved to Springfield in 1969. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Additional Trees of Honor award recipients for 2015 include:

  • Dr. Glenn H. Bernet, retired provost/vice president of academic affairs and former professor of mathematics
  • Shirley Shedd, professor emeritus, former chair of the Department of Communication, archivist

For more information, contact the Evangel University Alumni Relations Department at (417) 865-2811, ext. 7333.