Outdoor learning space and scholarship funds honor community activist Thomas Walsh

Monday, June 15, 2015

Boone, NC—Thomas "Tommy" Walsh was a proponent of "porch sittin.'" When he served as assistant director of development and outreach for The Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Department at Appalachian State University in the late 1990s, he taught his students the importance of community engagement. Walsh professed the best way to network and understand the heart of a local community was to connect with its citizens in face-to-face conversation, most often on their own front porch. Now an outdoor learning space constructed in his honor affords the university a great location for face-to-face dialogue and a scholarship in his name supports students in sustainable development.

Tommy WalshIn late April members of the Episilon Tau Pi Eagle Scout fraternity; faculty members Ball and Dr. Sandra Lubarsky, chair of the Department of Sustainable Development; Debbie Bauer, manager of the Sustainable Development Civic Gardening Project, formerly The Edible School Garden, and Willard Watson III, former community outreach specialist in the Office of Sustainability at Appalachian, constructed the Tommy Walsh Memorial learning space. The space features seven wooden benches constructed from locally harvested wood. It is located in the civic garden at the Living Learning Center (LLC) on the university's campus.

"We have waited a long time to have a spot specifically designed for outdoor exchange, " Dr. Lee Ball, a senior lecturer in the Department of Technology and Environmental Design and interim director of sustainability for the university, said. "The reliance on PowerPoint presentations and other forms of instruction in classrooms that often do not have windows can create a disconnect with the natural world. There are times when we simply want to sit together in an outdoor environment conducive to dialogue and reflection."

Also in late April, Walsh's friends and family chose to honor the community activist and educator. More than 60 Appalachian faculty and students, friends and family attended a fundraiser for the Walsh-Wolfe Memorial Scholarship, an idea he and his friend Dr. Richard Wolfe conceived in 2011.