Tom Hargrove remembered

26 January, 2011 by (comments)

With deep sadness CIAT received the news of the passing of Dr. Thomas Hargrove, Head of Communications at CIAT from 1992 to 1995.

An amazing writer and exceptional colleague, Tom revitalized public information at the Center and promoted the production of the first institutional videos directed toward external audiences.

On 24 September 1994, on his daily trip to CIAT headquarters in Palmira from his home located in southern Cali, Tom was abducted by members of the FARC guerrilla group and remained captive for 11 months.

His kidnapping made headlines worldwide and triggered movements of solidarity in different parts of the world, such as in the Philippines, headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), where Tom served as Head of Communication and Publications Services between 1973 and 1991.

After his release by the FARC in June 1995, Tom left CIAT and Colombia to reside in his home country, the United States, where he wrote a best-selling book on his bitter experience, Long March to Freedom, which served as inspiration for a major movie film Proof of Life.

His life was characterized by adventure. Tom served in the Army during the Vietnam War—an experience that kindled in him the interest and passion to use writing to break barriers between countries and bridge gaps in technologies.

After the war ended, Tom-as an IRRI officer-returned to Vietnam, taking with him rice varieties that the country had lost during the war. For Tom, this was always a motive of pride, saying that this was the least he could do for a nation of farmers that had suffered so much.

Author of numerous articles, editor of a myriad of books, and author of a series of primers on rice, Tom also wrote in a simple, easy-to-understand language, taking technology to small farmers.

His professional commitment made Tom recipient of numerous recognitions. In 1988 he received the ACE Professional Award, the highest honor granted to a communicator by the former Agricultural Communicators in Education. In 1997, Texas A&M nominated him as the first honoree of its Journalism Hall of Honor. In 2002, he was chosen as one of the three outstanding alumni of Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture, where he received his title in agricultural sciences and his title in journalism. Tom conducted his master’s and doctorate studies at Iowa State University.

Dr. Hargrove died unexpectedly of a heart attack last Sunday, 23 January, at the age of 66. His funeral will be held Saturday, 29 January, in his home town of Rotan, Texas. May he rest in peace.

By Eduardo Figueroa

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Filed Under: Inside CIAT