Ridgefielder pays tribute to Tom Vogt

Editor's note: Dr. Darla Shaw is a frequent contributor to The Ridgefield Press and a professor at Western Connecticut State University. She wrote the following piece in memory of Tom Vogt who died last Sunday, Nov. 5.

On Nov. 5, Thomas Vogt, one of Ridgefield’s finest teachers, lost his nine year battle with cancer.  Tom a life time career shop/ technology teacher and dept. head at East Ridge Middle School, won almost every accolade possible for his work in the classroom, curriculum writing and establishment of innovative programs.   He was Ridgefield Teacher of the Year, State Technology Teacher of the Year and won Celebration of Excellence awards on numerous occasions.   Tom was totally dedicated to his profession and had a passion for teaching found in few.

As a fellow teacher at ERMS what I most admired about Tom, however, was his ability to make learning fun, connect with the students and truly care about each and every one of them.  He has so proud of his students and their achievements, stayed in touch with many of them and followed their careers.  After producing the award winning Alumni News, students would return to the school for years asking for copies of what they would be doing ten years out of school.  

I also admired Tom for this professionalism, his integrity, very dry and unique sense of humor, his strong sense of ethics and his ability to stand up for his beliefs even when facing adversity. Under his leadership the school was able to successfully make the transition from shop to technology as Tom was knowledgeable in so many areas and also a lifelong learner ready to take on any new challenge.  

Not commonly known by his co-workers and students, but Tom was an anthropologist doing digs at Gung ump, the Native American burial area in New London. He was also a consummate reader, historian, primary resource researcher, writer and author of over 14 books all based on famous people from his family tree beginning with Lafayette Foster, Vice President of the U.S.  Tom also loved marketing and business and took classes at Disney World to learn more about the world of innovation

Everyone wants to leave a legacy and make a difference and Tom did so without effort. He inspired thousands of students with his knowledge of technology, and he showed us all the value of taking family histories seriously. Tom was also an amazing family man and grandfather writing a book called Risk Management about Kevin, his grandson, the violinist.  Tom’s final book was his autobiography where he details his nine year bout with cancer and his unique interactions with special people along the way.  

I feel humbled and honored to have worked with Tom for so many years.  Although, I was older than Tom, I always looked to him as a mentor and knew I could go to him openly with concerns and always get good answers.  Tom you will be missed.  You were one of those special people you run across in life and never forget.