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Donor Hopes New Scholarship Will Change Somebody's Life

January 22, 2008

Category: Academics, Alumni, Athletics, Sport & Health Sciences

Alumnus Richard "Rick" B. Toms '74 of Hagerstown, Md., hopes the new scholarship he and his wife, Cinda, have established at Catawba College will change a student's life. He says the scholarship he received that enabled him to attend Catawba and play football changed his.

"The reason I came to Catawba was because somebody gave me a scholarship," Toms explains. "If somebody hadn't given me a scholarship I probably wouldn't have pursued football or even thought about Catawba, but that scholarship said to me that somebody was thinking about me, cared about me and wanted me to come to their school. It changed my life with that scholarship and I want to do the same thing."

Preference for the new Rick and Cinda Toms Endowed Scholarship will be given to football players from Maryland.

"I believe that if you have received any type of benefit – an academic or athletic scholarship – that you should be giving something back to help the next generation. You can help change a young person's life; they're all looking for the same thing, I was — direction. I graduated from high school and wondered ‘What's my next step?'  With a scholarship, you can get a young person heading in the Catawba direction."

Toms grew up on a dairy farm in western Maryland, one of four kids in a family. His only experience with North Carolina, prior to attending Catawba, was his participation in a football camp held in Rocky Mount, N.C. He thinks a Catawba scout either saw him at that camp or saw a high school film of him that resulted in a call for him to travel to Salisbury in March of his senior year to try out for the Catawba team.

"I was recruited on scholarship to be the first official kicker in the history of the school and I was fortunate enough to play in every game for four years," Toms recalls. Harvey Stratton was his coach during his freshman year, and then Bill Faircloth for his last three years at Catawba.

Toms majored in physical education and went from struggling academically his first semester to being a dean's list student. "To get to the top, you've got to go to the bottom," he jokes.

"One thing I really enjoyed was Hoyt McCachren (professor emeritus of theatre arts) in speech class," he remembers. "I've given hundreds of speeches whether in businesses, church, Rotary or Boy Scouts and I think that was one of the best classes I've ever had on how to make a professional presentation. I was used to talking to cows which was sort of a one-sided conversation since you could never tell who's listening."

Frank "Dutch" Meyers' (professor emeritus of physical education and recreation) kinesiology class was also memorable for Toms. "He was a great guy who made it interesting in class," he notes. " ‘You've got to tell if it's a right femur or left femur,' he'd tell us. Coach Meyers was very dedicated and he loved athletics. He was a great teacher."

Even with his football scholarship, Toms had to work while a student at Catawba. "I got jobs around town, working for a construction company one year, building the Elks Club, digging footings and pouring the foundation. I also worked for Food Town at their big warehouse about 10 minutes away from campus. I remember seeing Tom Smith (1964 Catawba alumnus and chair of the College's Board of Trustees) who may have been the warehouse manager at that time," he says.

Several years after graduating from Catawba, Toms met wife Cinda in his home state. The couple married in 1981 and has two children, son Brent, 21, and daughter Kelly, 18, both students at McDaniel College in Maryland. Brent and Kelly are student athletes, Toms proudly notes, and close siblings.

Toms runs the business which he established in 1985, Atlantic Security Systems, a security company specializing in security systems, fire alarms, CCTV (cameras), and access entry control. His company's clients include 140 schools in four different counties in Maryland and West Virginia.

"Rick is an example of someone who gives back and keeps the wheels of Catawba turning," explains Tom Childress, Catawba's senior vice president. "He has a long memory of his experiences here and knows firsthand just how life-changing a scholarship can be. We are grateful to him and Cinda for their ongoing support."





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