NEW PALESTINE — For as far back as Tom Tucker can recall his family, including his dad and grandfather, have been involved with helping folks in the New Palestine area and Southern Hancock schools.
Tucker, who went to Brandywine Elementary School along with all the other Tucker children before and after him, graduated from New Palestine High School in 1973. He then served on the Southern Hancock School Board of Trustees for 16 years from 2000 to 2016.
Tucker was recently celebrated by the Southern Hancock School Board for his selection as the New Palestine Education Foundation’s 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award winner. Each year, the foundation selects a former NPHS student who has contributed to excellence in the community.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve told everybody — if I’m deserving of the award, there are a lot of people in this community deserving of the award,” Tucker said with a laugh. “But, humbly and graciously, I do accept the award.”
During the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, Tucker was honored by New Palestine Education Foundation President Gary Halliburton and current SH board president Dan Walker.
Walker, who is a neighbor of Tucker’s, took Tucker’s place on the board when Tucker did not seek re-election in 2016 after serving 16 years. Walker nominated Tucker for the alumni award and did so because of the community service Tucker has given through the years.
“Tom is very deserving of this award because he’s affected so many lives and has given back to the community,” Walker said.
Tucker has served on numerous sports, community, agriculture and church boards and is active as a representative working with the New Palestine High School renovation board.
“He’s still giving back to this community to this day,” Walker said.
In addition to Tucker and Walker being neighbors, they are good friends. Tucker offered advice to Walker about what it’s like to be on a school board before Walker decided to run.
“I did encourage Dan to run, but he didn’t need much help from me to be a good school board member,” Tucker said.
Tucker’s seat on the board, representing the Brandywine community, was held by Tucker’s cousin before Tucker earned the seat. Before that, another Tucker cousin held the seat. Walker broke the string of Tucker family members on the board when he was elected.
Walker noted he’s known Tucker since he was a child and said he’s one of the most humble, hard-working people in New Palestine.
“He’s too humble to admit this, but he has affected a lot of lives in this community, none more so than mine,” Walker said.
Tucker served on the SH school board during some difficult years when school financing took several hits due to an unsteady economy. He and other board members had to make hard decisions affecting staff and the classrooms, including laying off some educators. His votes on the board kept the district moving forward during difficult financial times.
For Tucker, who has deep roots in family farming, he said he’s always enjoyed being a part of the close-knit community, including New Palestine schools.
”It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here forever like me and my family or if you’ve been here a little while,” Tucker said. “We’re all from the same community, and there’s lots of stuff to do, and there are plenty of good people who step up and do it, and that’s what makes this a great place to be.”
Tucker, who still farms to this day, keeps his eyes on happenings throughout the community and the area schools. While he served on the school board for many years, he admits it wasn’t as easy of a job as some might think.
“I don’t miss it, but I did enjoy it,” Tucker said.
While Tucker said he’s proud of many accomplishments the school board made during his time on the board, he likes the leadership at all six district school buildings and at the administration office, including superintendent Lisa Lantrip, who he helped hire.
“I think she’s been really good for our school system,” Tucker said.