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He was the first person in his family to attend college. This meant that on his first day at Purdue, Tom Spurgeon ’61 had very little understanding of fraternities and the Greek system. However, on that day in 1957 when he pledged Phi Gamma Delta at Purdue, Tom would become part of something special — a collegiate experience that would give him and his highly accomplished pledge class a unique sense of unity, pride and consideration of others.

“We did a good job of helping each other through school,” Tom explains. “We had certain ideals of a conservative nature. The Phi Gams who went before were very capable people. When I was a freshman, there was a senior everyone looked up to — Gene Cernan ’56. He was the last man to walk on the moon. We all had a mutual adherence to standards and ethics, and it rubbed off on everybody. And it was especially helpful in forming the successes of future leaders.”

Tom has his own story of accomplishment. Following his 1961 Purdue graduation in industrial management, he transitioned from ROTC to a full officer Army commission. He ultimately was transferred to the Department of Defense where he joined the Defense Atomic Support Agency as a nuclear weapons officer. One of a select number of officers assigned to this position, Tom was responsible for maintaining warheads as assigned.

In 1964, following his military service, Tom returned to school at Indiana University where he would earn an MBA. As his professional bio reads, he is “an entrepreneur who has built companies throughout the United States. Brother Spurgeon most recently served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Lincoln Office in Peoria, Illinois, one of the country’s largest distributors of Steelcase furniture. During his business career, he has served on four additional corporate boards and various community boards. Presently, he is on two corporate boards, he is a hospital Trustee, and Vice Chairman (former Chair) of the Board of Trustees of Purdue University. His service to Purdue includes membership on the Campaign for Purdue steering committee and Purdue Athletic Advisory Council. He also has served on the executive committee of the PAA Board of Directors and chaired its Strategic Planning Task Force. Brother Spurgeon has served on the advisory board for the Indiana University School of Business and as an instructor at both Indiana University and Bradley University.”

“I’ve been fortunate,” Tom admits. “If we go back to 1985, I had one of my most significant learning experiences. While running Gott Corp., I was hit head-on on the interstate and suffered severe head injuries. My wife was told that I didn’t make it. Three days later, the board was told that I would never work again. I was back in six months. This whole event helped me quickly identify the things that were most important to me, including spending more time with my family.”

Earlier this year, Tom was named a 2014 winner of the Distinguished Fiji Award. As described in the spring 2015 issue of The Phi Gamma Delta, the “Archons established the Distinguished Fiji Award in 1964. It is presented annually to no more than six graduate brothers who are deserving of recognition for their faithful and unselfish service to Phi Gamma Delta or their special contribution to mankind and society at large.”

2014 Pig Dinner

In the fall of 2014, Tom was asked to address his Lambda Iota brotherhood as the keynote speaker at the chapter’s annual Pig Dinner. “When Brother Bill Miller contacted me about speaking,” Tom explains, “I was somewhat surprised. I don’t think of myself as extraordinary when it comes to Phi Gamma Delta. But I have attempted to stay in touch with my pledge brothers over time. Of my 15 pledge brothers, I was least likely to succeed. I am very proud of how unique our pledge class was in their accomplishments.”

In his address to those attending the 2014 Pig Dinner, Tom went on to highlight the successes of those ’56 and ’57 pledge brothers who joined him during those most important undergraduate years:

Gene Axelrod ’60 – head of real estate; developer L.A. Partners, which sold the Beverly Hills Country Club in June 2015

Bob Black ’61 – CIA helicopter pilot

Bill Carson ’60 – Purdue Ph.D. Former IBM rocket scientist and current orchard owner and community educator (see page 5)

Lance Lange ’60 – Successful outdoor sign company in Ohio

David Brandt ’60 – Chairman of Brandt Construction, Inc., in Indianapolis

Bill Hanley ’60 – CEO, Cummins Great Plains Diesel in Omaha, Neb.

Don Lindner ’60 – Founded Gold Toe Hosiery, Co.

Jack Lucas ’60 - Sales Manager

Dr. Bart Nelson ’60 – Chairman of the Board and President of Nelson Irrigation Company; Honorary Doctorate from Purdue; numerous industry honors

Dave Ransburg ’61 – Former mayor of Peoria and CEO of L.R. Nelson Corp

John Robbins ’60 – Successful executive search firm

Ron Huffman ’60 - Purdue Ph.D. in engineering. Corporate head of Engineering

Jim Lutton ’61 - VP of Solar

John Martin ’60 - Executive with Rand McNally

Guy Pahud ’61 - real estate broker

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